Silver Lining in the Clouds

Lavender Maynor "Flame", Age 19, Head Gamemaker, Capitol

The Capitol rushed past me on either side and I let my eyes fall closed, leaned my head against the tram window. Another day, another morning. I blindly fumbled with the screen on the table in front of me, then decided I should've actually opened my eyes. I managed to just long enough to order coffee, punching in my credit number. When one of the attendants dropped it off at my fairly empty booth, I sighed and blinked myself awake, taking small sips at a time. It was way too early―the outside light seeping in was gray, half due to the hour and half to the overcast sky. I looked down at the city spread out below, and it looked abandoned. The Capitol was fairly dead at this time in the morning.

Even with the speed of the tram, I knew it was going to be an at least fifteen-minute ride to the Gamemaking Center, what with all of the constant stops at the drop-off points and distance from my apartment to my destination. Setting the coffee down, I reached in my bag for the hard-copy edition of The Capitol Daily I'd picked up at the station. I managed a smile―sure enough, the four-hundred fifth Hunger Games were splattered all over the front-page, even weeks after.

A still of Namitha and Lina from the final battle took up the top of a column, article underneath a debate on just how evenly matched they actually were. A famous author―Elaina Linette―had her review of the Games featured on the left-hand side. Another bit of text near the bottom of the page had a psychologist's thoughts on the ghosts. But the majority of the page was an article under the largest headline: A Record-Setting Hunger Games to be Topped Next Year?

I thought of the arena still in construction. Oh, yes. Definitely.

By the time the tram arrived at my drop-off, I was a lot more awake, my coffee was cold, and The Capitol Daily had been read through. I shoved the paper back in my bag, slung over my shoulder, and headed out.

It took a few moments, but the Capitol worked fast and soon two reporters approached me in the few seconds it took to get across the street. "Lavender Flame!" one of them exclaimed, scrambling to walk beside me. "An honor, as always." It clicked in my mind that I'd had an interview with her before, but I couldn't remember where. "I was wondering if you could tell me anything more about those 'tracker-tricks'… hmm?"

I put on the smile that I always did for anyone who wasn't a fellow Gamemaker or related to me by blood. "Of course―ah, do you have a minute? We can talk inside."

"Of course, of course!" she echoed, and her companion came along. I swiped my ID through the slot by the door, signing in for the day, and beckoned for them to follow me through the lobby and to the first vacant place I could think of, which ended up being a sort of conference room on the ground floor.

I sat at the long table, let them settle and prep a tablet document, before saying, "What do you want to know?"

"Well, I suppose, how did the Gamemaking team really come up with the idea of utilizing the tributes' trackers for all those illusions?"

I answered honestly. "In a DAPT meeting one day―ah, Designated Arena Planning Time, that is." Not everyone's a Gamemaker. "Before the Games. I mean, I was just looking over some data from the year before, of the tributes, and it just sort of clicked. We get information from them, and I figured that they could get information from us. All credit for the tech work goes to Francisco though."

Nods, smiles, notes. "And the last battle? Driving all of the tributes to the Cornucopia like that?"

"Ah…" I tried to think; but it was still early and I hadn't woken up prepared for another interview. "That was improvising, sort of based around the more typical feast." It was true enough.

There were a few more questions before I was left alone, and I tried to get myself to stop shaking. I really didn't do well with people that I didn't know; but it apparently didn't show too much, or else I wouldn't have been Head Gamemaker.

I went up to my office, paced a while so I could look over the coding of another arena feature for next year, and finally settled down to answering a few emails.

. . . . .

It was later in the day when the intercom came on. "Ms. Flame?"

"Ah, yes?" What do you want?

"You have a visitor."

I groaned inwardly. "All right. Send 'em up."

Gauging how long it would take someone to get to my office from the lobby, I tried to clean up as much of the clutter that always seemed to gather as I could before sitting again, trying to look focused on sorting through all the windows pulled up on my screen. I closed out of all the ones with any of next year's plans, just in case. The things people would do to get a hint of the next Games! Honestly, the over-eager, impatient nature of most.

I sensed someone watching me and looked up. "Misty!" I greeted, actually smiling. "How are you?"

"Oh, fine, fine. Handling all the publicity all right?" She sat in the chair across the desk from me.

I wished that they would've just told me who my visitor was. Misty was one of the Gamemakers from last year, who'd retired after the latest Games. It'd only been a few weeks but we'd all really started to miss her―she was sort of the grandmother figure of all of the other Gamemakers, half because of age and nature, and partly because she was Head Gamemaker before me, stepping down to a regular seat for her last year.

"I think so," I grinned, and slid The Capitol Daily across the desk to her. I did like recognition, even if I didn't like talking about it so much.

"Very nice, Lavender." Her eyes scanned over a few pages before she handed it back to me.

"I just hope it's enough," I said, and the words came out a lot more quietly than I meant them to.

Misty nodded in understanding. "You can't give any more than you have."

I half-smiled. "I know. But I can try." I still didn't know how I'd made it through the Games, whether they were only four days or not. Maybe it was easier in other years, when the battles and deaths were more spread out, instead of the whole Games taking place in scarcely half of a week. Not to mention that Head Gamemakers before me hadn't exactly had the potential fate of Panem resting on who won. I couldn't have afforded to have the wrong tribute make it out because of luck.

"Don't wear yourself out; you're still young. Lots of years ahead of you," Misty said sagely.

"Lots of Hunger Games to go," I added.

She stood, clearly to leave. "I just thought I'd check in. Old Gamemaker habit."

"You should say hi to everyone else," I suggested. "We've all missed you."

She laughed almost soundlessly. "I think I will. Good luck, Lavender."

The door clicked shut behind her.

. . . . .

The afternoon dragged on. By some miracle, there weren't any official meetings planned today, though that didn't mean much anymore. The assorted message would pop up on my desk, another question that I'd answer and send back, only leaving the office a few times. It rained somewhere around one, large, heavy droplets splattering against the window-wall. The lights turned up to compensate for the darker storm clouds.

Sometime after that, there was a series of sharp, curt knocks on my office door. "Come in," I called, just loudly enough that it would be heard. I wondered who it was that I wouldn't have had some warning―the other Gamemakers usually sent a message first, anyone else was generally announced.

President Paylor walked in and took a seat.

You would've thought that I should've been panicking, but this actually happened often enough that I'd stopped doing that. I barely even bothered keeping up a smile for the President's appearances anymore.

"Hello, Lavender."

Sort of a first-name basis, another perk of having the President talk to you just about every day.

"Hello." I didn't ask what she was here for. I had the feeling I'd find out soon enough.

"How's everything coming along?"

"Oh; fine… I guess."

"Really?"

"Maybe not," I admitted.

"I see." She watched my expression a bit too carefully and I tried not to notice. "Now, tell me, Lavender, is something wrong?"

"No, of course not. Why?"

"Are you sure?" She answered with a question again.

"Yes. Just… tired." I still didn't like the idea of having this conversation with the President, of all people. Sure, she wasn't one of the really formal government officials and I'd stopped freaking out when she walked into my office, but… I really preferred keeping our exchanges about the fate of Panem and whatnot.

"Not overwhelmed at all?"

I started to wonder if mind-reading was some Capitol alteration that you could get.

"Aren't we all?" I asked, smiling a bit shyly because I could tell she hadn't missed my use of her questioning response style.

The President smiled, then answered, "Very true. Now, what I came to talk to you about was the tribute list for the upcoming Games."

"And?" I asked.

"Recent information has... indicated, that when District Fourteen attacks—oh, get used to the word, Lavender, it's only a matter of when, now—it will likely be in the form of an attack on the arena. On the tributes."

"How do you know? Can we be sure?"

"Very sure. I'm the President—I have my ways."

"What are you suggesting we do about it?"

"That," she started, "is your job. Precisely what I need you to do. I've already taken care of the first step—selecting the tributes. All you need to do is organize the training."

"Training...?" I, for once, couldn't really follow what the President was trying to tell me.

"Yes. I've selected five victors, only our most trusted, to organize a way to prepare all of the tributes for this year's Games, in the case that... anything, should happen. I believe that, if abducted, the tributes could get information back to us—valuable information. A way to get into District Fourteen, perhaps."

"Attack before they do," I said quietly.

"Maybe," the President answered, her voice sounding vague and distant. "It might be too late for that. However, the tributes would know what it was that they were doing, at the very least. But for that to happen, we need some more people involved in our plan. Kizzy Ericssen, for one."

"Of course."

"And then also some others to help her—more experienced victors, those are the four that I've chosen. Litiea Hellion, Trey Dracco, Keith Rienman, and Sassy Hemlocke."

I scribbled down the names of the victors into the blank table window just as the President continued, "Those four will be her main supporters in organizing the other victors, that's why I've chosen some with... varied personalities, they'll be more likely trusted among their groups of friends. They'll know all that we do, but the others, the victors in the districts that'll help with the training of the tributes... they'll only know what it is that they're teaching the tributes, not why. Kizzy, I've decided, will be the one to tell our competitors—most of them should look up to her, as a role model—a victor of a Quarter Quell, someone closer to their own age, from the districts, they could relate to her..."

I looked up from my notes, from the oddly neat, cursive scrawl, and took a deep breath. "All right, then," I said. "What is it exactly that I'm supposed to be doing?"

"Call a meeting with those five victors on Sunday. Here at the Gamemaking Center, at three that afternoon. I'll be here as well, and we can explain everything to them then. And I'll give Kizzy the tribute list—on her Victory Tour, she'll be able to contact all of the tributes. Their training will really start shortly after the tour, but the victors will take care of that."

I thought about it for a few seconds, still trying to absorb it all, and then said, "But what if the tributes don't agree to the training?"

"They will. Believe me, they will. All of them will have a very convincing reason why they should cooperate with us." A pause, and then, "Oh, don't give me that look, Lavender; it doesn't have to be a negative reason. Take little Airah, or Tamberlain—we have the cures to their problems that they don't. Surely, they'll be willing to negotiate."

Somehow feeling a little bit better, I answered, "Call a meeting of those five victors on Sunday. Here. At three in the afternoon. Got it. Anything else?"

"For now, no," the President replied, rising from her seat to leave. "Oh, but I did think that you might be interested in seeing this." She pulled a few pieces of paper from a folder in her bag and set them down on my desk. "It's the official review of the four-hundred fifth Hunger Games from the Capitol's Review Board—only a few have it now, not even online yet."

I nodded. "Thank you."

With that, President Paylor left my office, and I was alone again. I picked up the review.

Here in the Capitol, there was an official Review Board, a group of citizens who, well, "reviewed" all of the major events in the Capitol—namely the Games—and published their article shortly afterwards. I began to skim the first page.

This year's Annual Hunger Games came as a shock to all of us: a Quarter Quell, twenty years early to prove to the rebels that false preparation was their downfall. Additionally, to win the Games, the last tribute standing had to obtain five special books found in various places of the arena.

The new Head Gamemaker, Lavender Flame, definitely did quite a job of making this a "Games that no one will ever forget". When interviewed, Head Gamemaker Flame said that the ghosts the tributes were forced to discover were very much inspired by

"Ah, Ms. Flame?"

"Hmm? Yes; what?" I looked up to find one of the interns, Quicksilver, standing in the doorway to my office, looking a bit nervous and jumpy, which I found odd. She was actually one of my favorites out of the interns—she was a fast learner, always eager to please...

"This is from President Paylor," she got out finally, racing forwards to place a scrap piece of paper on my desk before bolting out again.

A bit overly cautiously, I unfolded the paper and then laughed. Quicksilver hadn't had anything to be nervous about—she probably just hadn't read it. It was simply a list of the phone numbers that I'd need to call the victors. That was all. And, at the bottom, a quick note from Paylor: Forgot this.

If I'd been focusing, I probably would've remembered to track down the numbers sooner, but I wasn't.

. . . . .

I had a few minutes to myself, spent reading over the rest of the review, before some of my fellow Gamemakers―Glisten, Ritter, and Rainshadow―appeared in the doorway. "Lavender?"

"Yes," I said, and it came out on a sigh. "Come in."

"I just saw President Paylor walk out of your office!" Glisten piped up. "What was that all about?"

I came up with quite the impressive list of swear words mentally. They weren't supposed to know about any of that. "Nothing. She just wanted to give me the review of the Games, see?" I held up the papers on my desk and waved them around a bit before letting them fall again in a shuffled pile.

"You're a liar."

"Excuse me?" I asked, truly a bit shocked. "I'm a liar? I seem to remember you, Glisten, telling me that the construction zones were all taken care of."

"That was an accident!"

"It could've been our downfall!" Maybe I was exaggerating. I really didn't care about the discovery of the construction area―the stats for that day had gone through the roof, a good thing―but I wanted to prove my point. "Say the tributes discovered another area, a way to shut down all of the arena's operations! We'd all be dead!" I sighed and leaned back in my chair, closing my eyes. My voice was quieter when I spoke again. "We're all liars, Glisten. All Gamemakers are liars. It's what we do. We make the tributes believe that they're somewhere safe and then let the mutts after them. We say that Quarter Quells are every twenty-five years and then make one be twenty years early. Don't you get it?"

The real Quarter Quell card had nothing to do with five objects this year.

I opened my eyes again. "We're. All. Liars. So don't call me one like you're accusing me of something that you've never done."

I hated being like this; I really didn't have a problem with most of the other Gamemakers, most of the time. In fact, I liked them; but sometimes, it was easy for them to get on my nerves, when they forgot who was in charge.

Ritter spoke up. "So what did President Paylor want?"

"Nothing," I repeated. "That I didn't lie about. She just wanted to give me the review. Said we did a fine job with the Games. That was all."

At this, Rainshadow broke in, swiftly saying, "We scheduled a meeting with the head of the construction crew tomorrow afternoon―"

I jumped up from my seat so quickly that they all took a step back. "Oh, I'm sorry!" I said, bowing dramatically. "Are you Head Gamemaker now? I must've missed my own resignation!" I gave a laugh that sounded a lot more forced than it meant to. "Silly me!"

… I was usually a lot more timid than this in most situations―namely social ones―but I felt I did a bit better in a professional environment, where people knew who I was and respected that…

"What's wrong with scheduling a meeting?" Glisten tossed her metallic pink hair back over her shoulder, something she did quite a lot.

"Anyone who actually paid attention during our little agenda go-over would know that we're already busy for nearly all of tomorrow with the Training Room renovation plans."

"Oh," Ritter said, seeming to have a bit more sense than the others at the moment. "We'll go… take care of that. Right away!" The others followed him out of the room, and I sat at my desk again.

It seemed as though whatever connection we all formed during the Games was starting to come apart under all of the pressure. Maybe I was just having too long of a day. I sighed again; I'd track them down and find a way to apologize later.

I swiveled my chair in circles a few times, stopping once to look out the window. The storm had started up again. I watched a few raindrops trail down the window, and glanced up to see a patch of sunlight off in the distance, the rays shining through the breaks in the clouds, giving them a silver lining.

Just too poetic, I thought. Misty would love it.

The analogies of what that meant could wait.

At the moment, I had work to do.