Chapter 42. Fall
"Too late!" Willow screamed back at Johanna before taking the older woman's hand tightly in her own and sprinting for the fence. Johanna growled before throwing her gun over her shoulder. She turned her attention away from the explosion and the muttations towards Haymitch and Effie.
"MITCH! We can't push them back! We need to get Chaff and get out!"
Haymitch nodded hurriedly. He pushed Effie toward the fence, not exactly gently, before running quickly back toward Chaff, shoving his gun back over his shoulder. In the little amount of time they had, the medics had almost finished bandaging him but the gauze was already soaked in red. The man was sweating rather profusely but the almost drowsy look in his eyes and dilated pupils showed that they did have the time to administer the morphling. Haymitch instantly fell to his knees next to Chaff, holding a hand out to his friend to help him up. "Sorry, buddy, but we have to get going."
Chaff grumbled a few choice words towards Haymitch, but raised his hand up towards the man.
"Just don't let me fall over and I should be fine," the man slurred as he stood upright.
Everything was happening so fast that it was near impossible to keep track of everybody. A second bomb went off closer to the location of the soldiers, but now the Bonum hovercrafts were close on the horizon. They were close enough to spot the familiar owl crest on the sides but there was still a matter of getting close enough to the fence around the Seam to get to them. Gale took one glance around the group again, spotting that all of Haymitch and Willow's squads had managed to make it to their location.
"Everybody! To the fence, NOW!" he screamed out as loud as his vocal chords would allow so to be heard over the roaring sounds of buildings toppling over.
Haymitch quickly swung Chaff's good arm around his neck and began helping him as fast as possible to the fence. Katniss began backing up as the second bomb dropped. She scrambled backward, swinging her gun over her shoulder. She grit her teeth and spun, running after Willow and Johanna as fast as she could. The remainder of the soldiers and rebels followed soon after towards the fence. Peeta grasped on to Delly's wrist, almost afraid if he let her go, she would explode along with the buildings behind them. The majority of the Victors led the way as the fence in the Seam came into sight.
But the creatures behind them would not give up. The muttations were hot on their trail, but Gale took up the rear, aiming his handgun back towards them. He fired at a few of the birds, hitting them away from the group before they could get any closer.
But one creature seemed to slip by unnoticed. At Katniss's leg, a pair of claws dug into her calf as the unknown creature latched on to her. Katniss suddenly screamed as she reached the fence, spinning around anxiously, trying to kick the creature off her leg desperately. "What the hell-?"
But the familiar, hideous-looking tom cat refused to let go. He turned his rotten squash colored eyes up towards Katniss, hissing at her. Katniss, regardless of her hatred for the creature, sighed in relief that it wasn't something more sinister. "Buttercup! Don't scratch me, you useless thing," she said to Buttercup in relief as she grasped him awkwardly and pulled him into her arms.
At first, the creature hissed again and went to claw at her arms. He was not taking being betrayed and left behind well, but the second the third bomb went off all, signs of hatred vanished from the creature. He hid his face immediately in the girl's arms, shaking in fear of the loud sounds. Katniss rolled her eyes slightly at the cat's cowardice before taking a few steps backward. After ensuring everyone was at a safe distance, she threw the thermite hard at the fence.
The fence's explosion was nowhere near rivaling the sounds of the bombs behind them but it certainly won in terms of light. The flash was almost blinding as the thermite destroyed the entire section of the fence. Parts of the metal flew in every direction until the blinding light vanished and hardly any of the fence remained in front of Katniss. But the Mockingjay didn't even wince. She turned back to the assembled Victors, rebels, and soldiers, shifting the quivering cat in her arms. "Quickly!"
One by one, the soldiers and rebels began to pour out. Not too far from their location and in the woods, the Bonum hovercrafts were landing and opening their doors for the group.
Johanna ripped her arm away from Willow's grasp upon seeing them. She, instead, ran towards Haymitch and Chaff, shouting back towards Willow. "Go on ahead!"
Willow groaned, annoyed, but continued sprinting toward the Bonum hovercrafts.
The larger, dark skinned male was bleeding more and more from his stomach, causing him to significantly slow down Haymitch. Effie was at the man's other side, attempting to aid them but she didn't have much strength to do so. Johanna rushed towards the three. She immediately pulled Effie from Chaff's side and pulled his stump arm awkwardly over her shoulder. "Come on, Mitch, pick up the pace a little!"
"You try carrying a man larger than you alone, Johanna," Haymitch immediately snapped back, although he was thankful for the stronger woman's help.
"What do you think I came back here to do? Now quit your bitching and move out before I throw you both back into the District for forcing me to come over here!" Of course, neither of them had actually forced her and she knew this. The woman just refused to acknowledge the fact she viewed the two as more than just drinking partners. She shifted Chaff's stump to a more comfortable position on her shoulder before pressing through the broken fence, Effie right behind them.
Katniss watched Haymitch, Chaff, Johanna, and Effie pass before craning her neck back toward the District, to make sure everyone was out. Peeta, Delly, and Gale were the last three. The painter let go of Delly's wrist at the fence before pushing her forward to go ahead of him. With his free hands, he grasped onto his gun mostly as a precaution before looking back towards Gale. Delly began to run forward, but not before glancing back at the three remaining Victors, but mainly Peeta, anxiously.
The hunter wasn't fairing too great. His cast leg was starting to bleed again and pain was practically written on his face, but those were the last of his worries. Almost out of ammo, a swarm of tracker jackers were heading straight towards the remaining three. Still, Gale managed to push himself forward through the pain and fear. His eyes went forward, landing on Katniss and Peeta as he ran towards them.
"Go, go!" he yelled, knowing the mutts had to be close by.
Katniss, however, stayed stationary at the fence. She held her hand that wasn't gripping Buttercup out toward Gale desperately. "Hurry!"
The hunter growled slightly towards Katniss, but eventually made his way towards her. Peeta passed Katniss first before Gale reached out, grasping the girl's hand after dropping his gun. He pushed her forward slightly to get her moving towards the crafts.
Peeta, however, was the first one to notice it. His eyes widened slightly as the crafts began to move. The bombs behind them were falling at a faster rate and must have been getting too close to the Bonum crafts for comfort. They were preparing to take off. "We need to move now!" the painter cried out as he grasped Delly's arm again, running as fast as the prosthetic leg under his pants would allow.
Delly darted quickly in front of Peeta, trying to hurry him along faster. Katniss grasped Gale's hand tightly before running after the two blonds as quickly as she could with Gale hanging off the end of her arm. She knew he was hurting, but right now, it was at the bottom of the list of her concerns. After only a few seconds, Peeta managed to push Delly onto the rising craft. The door was still open and the loading slide was still down, making the only difficult part of getting on board the winds that the craft kicked up.
Delly quickly jumped into the hovercraft. She managed to grab hold of the slide before turning to look back at Peeta, holding her hand out toward him. The painter wasted little time. He jumped after her, grasping her hand tightly. He slowly dragged himself up, using his other hand to pull himself along the slide. Eventually, he managed to push Delly forward into the hallway of the craft, but did not follow. Instead, he knelt down, trying to secure his feet to the inside of the door frame. Once he felt his footing and balance were good enough, he turned towards Katniss and Gale, extending a hand. "Come on!"
Gale didn't even give her a chance to turn to him. He dropped his cane immediately before pushing Katniss with as much force as he could towards Peeta. Katniss stumbled hard toward the rising hovercraft and Peeta due to the strength of Gale's push. She quickly spun around and looked at him as Peeta grasped on to Katniss tightly. He started to pull her back up and towards the hallway to safety.
The craft's slide was already up to Gale's chest at this point and he knew he had to act fact. The hunter jumped up, trying to will all his strength to his upper body as he grasped the sides of the slide. He began to pull himself up with great difficulty as his hips and legs dangled from the edge.
Katniss allowed Peeta to pull her up onto the hovercraft without struggling for once. As soon as she was close enough, though, she pushed Buttercup and Peeta backwards into the hallway before leaning out, holding her hands out toward Gale's. The hunter looked at her, fatiguing rather quickly. He tried to reach but his hands immediately went back to the sides of the slide. She was too far from his position to grab on to and he was afraid he would lose his grip on the metal.
Peeta pushed the cat off his chest before scrambling back towards Katniss. He knew it would be futile to pull her back in and she might be the last chance to get Gale in the craft. Instead, he reached forward and grabbed hold of the girl's ankles to keep her steady. "Reach for him, I got you!"
Katniss glanced back at Peeta for a split second, thankfulness written all over her face. She lowered herself down the slide quickly, grasping onto his hands on the sides of the metal almost painfully. "I have you! Let go!"
Gale began to comply but his voice cracked out into a yelp. His eyes widened before the pupils began to dilate as a tracker jacker crawled out from behind the hunter's ear. Katniss cursed under her breath before tightening her hands further on Gale's, trying in vain to stop the hallucinations. "Gale! Gale, listen to me! Grab my hands!"
The hunter shook his head violently as he went to reach for her hands. However, through his eyes, there were thousands of hands before him, all reaching towards him and all different colors, including some he's never seen before. The hands all reached out at once as they began to push him backwards towards what he thought was an ocean of fireworks.
In reality, the boy's hands slid weakly down the panels of metal as his body fell completely from the craft, towards the woods that they were now hovering a dangerous height above. Katniss screamed for him as she watched him fall from the craft, her hands scrambling uselessly after him even though he was already gone.
To be continued...
A/N: Another thank you to everybody who's stuck around so far! We couldn't be thankful enough to all our loyal readers and we hope that you come read the next and final fanfiction of the series, War Games. As Songbird was, War Games will be available very soon!