I held the letter in my hand, rereading the words for the third time. This was alarming, in fact, more than alarming.
I write this letter as a warning, and also in confidence that you will handle the situation appropriately. There is trouble brewing among the Districts, an unrest you can feel in the air. No one will speak the words or admit it, but we are on the verge of another Rebellion. The second reaping of children for the Breeding Center is upon us there are talks of refusal to hand over the boys and girls for testing.
In the next few days I'll arrive in District 4, the investigation at The Resort has been long and drawn out. President Paylor is trying to keep me busy, fearful of what my presence might provoke in the people of Panem. You and Peeta may have been the stars of the Rebellion, but I am remembered as well. I am the fierce fighter who stood by your side, stood up for right over wrong, no matter the cost.
I have been commanded to report back to the Capitol in two weeks for debriefing. I have no doubts that I am going to be kept out of public eye for the airing of the documentary. I have a feeling that you and Peeta will be asked to remove yourself as well. We are no longer assets in President Paylor's breeding games. We are liabilities.
Katniss, remember who your enemy is.
Your best friend, Gale
"Remember who your enemy is." I whispered to myself. The last time I heard those words Haymitch was speaking them to me. I was preparing to enter the arena in the Quarter Quell and I soon found out what he meant. The Capitol is the enemy. Gale wants me to resurrect the Mockingjay.
I dropped the letter on the table and let out a frustrated moan. Peeta looked up from a file he was reading. "What's wrong?"
I sighed. "It doesn't make sense."
He shrugged. "Don't take it all to heart, Katniss. Things with him haven't been… right."
We had to be careful to watch what we said here in District 14. There were cameras and microphones everywhere. I couldn't read the letter out loud. In fact, by the end of the day I would need to burn it in the fire. Things had grown complicated with Gale. He disconnected himself from the Breeding Center after we arrived, disagreeing with President Paylor's methods. She released him from his position and sent him to The Resort to be on the research team there. Survivors had been found and they were interviewing them while searching the rest of the compound. Cruz, Holden and Hunter were there with them. Ash and Keelo had been sent to the Capitol to do work there.
Gale had been relieved to step down from his position. He had become unstable in that position and was in a constant battle to bend the rules. The issue now was that the man who took his place was intolerable. President Paylor called us up to Command Center the morning of his arrival, anxious to introduce us.
"This is Professor Klink." She told us.
"Nice to meet you, Klink." Peeta had extended his hand.
"It's Professor Kink." He snuffed, simply eyeing Peeta's hand instead of shaking it.
He seemed to be very full of himself, and he took his job in the Command Center very seriously. He tightened the security in the Breeding Center and made stricter rules for the children. Curfews had been made earlier, demerits given for being late to class, and a noise ordinance had been posted banning talking in the hallways. It was getting a bit out of hand but neither Peeta nor I had a say in what he did. For now we focused on the boys and girls that came to us for help. The number had almost tripled after Professor Klink arrived. Fear was spreading fast among the children.
A loud bell rang in the hall, signaling dinner. All staff was now required to eat together in the large dining room down the hall. Professor Klink used this as his time to go over new rules or give us reminders as to how he was superior to us all. Peeta had to kick me under the table many of times when I opened my mouth, ready to tell him off.
We made our way into the hall, joining the other grumbling staff members on their way to dinner. On call Med Staff and guards were excused from dinner and it seemed that more and more of them were volunteering for extra hours.
We made our way into the room, finding two empty seats. We were served our food by a group of wait staff Professor Kink had brought in from the Capitol. Professor Klink always showed up last, eyeing us all as he walked to his spot at the end of the table. He took a seat and motioned for us to eat.
"So Klink." I mumbled while chewing a piece of meat. "What news do you have for us today? Are we under curfew now?" Peeta nudged me a warning under the table.
Professor Klink's eyes narrowed. Peeta and I were the only staff he couldn't touch. We came to meals in support of the rest of the staff members we had grown close to. We knew that Professor Klink had tried to get rid of us on a few occasions but President Paylor told him that he could not authorize that. She found us important to the success of The Breeding Center. Every now and then we would get a message asking us to take it easy on Professor Klink, but I had no intentions of listening.
"Not until after we enjoy our meal Miss. Everdeen." He had this annoying obsession with manners and politeness.
"Mrs. Mellark." I blurted out before biting into my roll.
For the most part I still went by Katniss Everdeen. People knew me best that way. But in my own private romantic world, I was Mrs. Mellark.
We ate in silence for fifteen minutes, waiting for each person to finish and their plate to be cleared. Professor Klink was always the last to finish, I had a feeling he did it to get on my nerves. And it worked.
He leaned back in his chair and pulled a notebook from the inside of his suit jacket. He pulled out a piece of paper with line after line of topics to touch on. Several groans sounded around the room but Professor Klink just grinned and cleared his throat.
The first fifteen minutes he went on about reminders. Reminders to enforce curfew, enforce the noise ordinance, report any troublesome looking children directly to him, the importance of timeliness, and so on and so on and so on.
"And now on to the new rules." Today was Monday and he always had new rules or ideas on Monday. He seemed to spend the weekends deep in thought about how to make all our lives more difficult and unpleasant.
"First, effective immediately the children will be given seating arrangements in the cafeteria for each meal. We have noticed that some of our more troubling boy and girls are starting to group together. The seating arrangement, which I made this weekend, will go out in the morning message."
Every morning Professor Klink made an announcement over the loud speaker, giving the children reminders about the rules and his expectations of them. He continued on, saying something about a change in the weekly menu and possibly moving staff meetings to breakfast instead of dinner. I was almost zoned out completely.
"Finally. Also effective immediately, all girls pregnant for the second time will be relocated to District 15. Their partners will be sent home." I could have sworn he smirked in my direction.
Peeta leaned forward. "Why?"
I bit my lip, trying to hold in the words I wanted to say.
Professor Klink leaned forward. "There is no need for the boys to be here the second time around. For a first timer, it is new and they are learning great material in their classes. They are more frightened, rely more on their partner for support. The second time around they know what to expect. Plus, this way the mothers can be with their first born as well."
I had to agree with him on the second point. I knew at least one girl would be ecstatic to hear this news. But sending their partners home? I had counseled many girls who had come to depend on their partners. Sending them away could be detrimental to their emotional health.
I took a deep breath, trying to keep my tone neutral. "Could it be made a choice? Those boys that want to stay can, those who would rather go home can leave?"
He shook his head. "We will have new groups of children arriving in District 14 over the next few weeks. This will be the easiest way to make room for them."
A man I recognized as one of the night guards spoke up. "There is plenty of room here at the Breeding Center. It is barely half full." He sat up straight but I could see the fear in his eyes. There was a good chance he would be fired.
Professor Klink closed his notebook and stood. "These new rules are not up for discussion. Have a great night." He gave a small salute and left the room with long strides.
Chatter broke out as soon as he was gone.
"Can you believe him?" One of the nurses mumbled to a doctor sitting next to her.
"Well, I for one will be glad to get rid of some of the boys. They are rowdy." A guard spouted off to no one in particular.
I reached out and touched Peeta's arm. He turned to face me. "We need to prepare Stosh and Ollie. We need to meet with them tonight."
He frowned. "Are you sure it is safe to talk to them?"
I shrugged. "What is Professor Klink going to do?"
He sighed but a small smile pulled up the corners of his mouth. You are so stubborn sometimes."
I smiled and stood, lending my hand to him. "Let's go find them."