Oh, Beetee... I have such an inexplicable fondness for you...
The Hunger Games is not mine. If I'm going to own a book series, it's going to be one that I've written.
Beetee is not as smart as the woman of District Three who had been their only victor until her came along. For all his technobabble and teaching moments, he has never and will never reach anywhere near the intellect and intuitiveness of Wiress. But where Wiress is more capable of seeing the big picture, Beetee is more capable of understanding people. It is what will one day help his create human-traps in District Thirteen with the help of a certain Gale Hawthorne.
Beetee understand better than Wiress how the Games really work.
He understands better than most, really. Better than those who clutch their loved ones close and whisper that twenty-four children go in and only one comes out. Beetee knows the truth – that twenty-three come out in caskets and one never leaves. He knows that the tributes who leave the arena are the ones whose names are forgotten because – after all – what is in the arena is exciting. What is out of the arena isn't worth remembering.
So – after his first year of mentoring and watching his tributes die and seeing their names dissipate from the minds of those around him – Beetee makes it his duty to remember the names of those who left the arena alongside the names of those who did not.
The names of his first two tributes were Bolton Tennyson and Electra Miltred.
A lot of the District Three tributes are orphans because – unless you live in the Victor's Village – the pollution that runs off from the factories and contaminates the food and water dramatically shortens lifespan. Often Beetee is the only one standing in sorrow when a tribute's body is incinerated. He isn't sure what other districts do, but District Three burns their dead to use them as biomass energy for the factories. It is not a ceremony, though, because there is no God in Panem and there is not God in District Three.
Before the incineration that is not a ceremony, however, there are the days leading to the arena where Beetee does his best to get to know his tributes. Cabel di Vidi – who made it to the final eight of the fifty-fourth Hunger Games – had a fervent dislike for salty foods. Visi Joule – who died in the bloodbath of the seventy-third Hunger Games – had told him that she knew she wasn't going to win and, frankly, she didn't really want to. Beetee had told her that that was one of the bravest things he had ever heard.
A few years after the second Quarter Quell – which resulted in the deaths of Emily Thermal, Magnus Hylozo, Chromium Bario, and Radia Circe – a young Haymitch Abernathy asked him how he handled it, getting to know – and even like – his tributes only to watch them die days later. Beetee told him that it was not about him but about the tributes and how they handled it.
The next year, Haymitch spent the Games with a bottle of white liquor at his side.
Beetee doubts that it is the only difference between him and the sole living victor of District Twelve, but – since his "victory" in the thirty-seventh Hunger Games – two of Beetee's tributes remained in the arena after their Games passed. He won't bother mentioning their names because everyone knows them anyway.
Few people are willing to speak with Beetee about the tributes passed. Even the families of those who fled from the arena without a heartbeat refrain from doing so. Be it because they're desperate to move on or because they blame Beetee for those children's deaths.
He doesn't correct them, because it isn't about him and how he handles it.
Whenever he does find conversation about those who left nothing but their heartbeats in the arena, it always comes from the most unusual source. Annie Cresta – in one of her (increasingly less) rare moments of complete lucidity – shared with him memories of Cord Steele, the District Three boy tribute from her Games. A few times in their conversation, her laughter seemed natural instead of mad. And Beetee would wait patiently when she dug the heels of her hands into her ears.
In time, Beetee will sit in District Thirteen, tinkering with machinery and talking to Gale Hawthorne about Tinothy Hart of the seventy-fourth Hunger Games and his cleverness with those explosives. Beetee will ask Gale how he knows the boy's name, and Gale will tell him that he memorized the names of every tribute in Katniss' Games.
Beetee himself has never had to agonize in front of a screen, watching a loved one in the arena. Not the way Gale soon will. Beetee's great fondness for Wiress hadn't developed until after both their Games, and a week is never enough to grow so close to any of his tributes.
He remembers the sixty-second Hunger Games – his tributes were named Gearson Keller and May Porish and had both died at Gloss' hands. Beetee remembers watching Cashmere of District One – so new and still so close to the phantoms of the Games the year before. In her own cold way, she had gripped the sides of her chair and snarled at anyone who came close to her, eyes never straying from her brother's place on her tiny screen.
When he and Haymitch and Mags and a few others formed their little group of victor-rebels, Beetee had suggested offering a place for Cashmere, but the others had vehemently disagreed. There is a difference, they said, between the reluctant Careers of District Four and the bloodthirsty Careers of Districts One and Two. Beetee argued – and still argues today – that the victors of One and Two suffered through the same tortures they did. That the victor-rebels need to remember who the enemy is, and that enemy is not District One or District Two.
They still don't listen, but they will when it matters. It will be Beetee's words that Haymitch repeats to the Girl on Fire before the third Quarter Quell. It will be Beetee's words that run through her head as she fires an arrow into the force-field over the arena.
But before the Quell and the rebel forces and the Games, Beetee can remember standing on a stage in the square of District Three next to Wattsia Jefferson and hoping that someone out there will remember him not as the boy from District Three in the thirty-seventh Hunger Games but as Beetee.
And thirty-eight years from that moment, he will stand on the stage again – his hand inching to take Wiress' – and hope that no one will have to remember the Hunger Games at all.
In some ways, I may have strayed from the original premise, but I'm happy with it.