Phoenix here! This is a little late because we've had some difficulties, and someone else was actually going to write it then we had a last minute replacement. My husband stepped up to write this since otherwise he can't be involved in the story (he's not allowed to try for a tribute etc).
SOOOO here's the final eight interview seen through the eyes of a Capitol snob.
The chapter update comes in about an hour. I'm pretty sure it's something you've ALL been waiting for!
The Final Eight Interviews: No One Cares
Midnight in the Owlery
As I start my annual trip to the districts, I already can't wait to get back. I'm risking starving and losing track of the fashion trends. By the time I return this year, someone may laugh at the way that I have my beard split into two blue and purple points.
I look behind me at my assistant, Rigel, who is dragging the cases of camera equipment and supplies. With no car to be had, we leave the dusty, miserable village and reach the dusty, miserable road beyond. "You still have the cheese, don't you?"
"I still have everything. And I want to thank you again for this wonderful opportunity, Mister Apollo, to see the rest of Panem. There's nothing that I like better than getting outside…"
I grunt in frustration. I don't care about my assistant's peculiarities, only hers. At the moment, I feel more interest in getting out of the hot District Ten sun. "You haven't let the Muenster and Mozzarella touch each other, have you? I know that they look alike, but they're not the same."
"No, no," Rigel assures me. "But I just saw a huge herd of cattle. We might find some fresh…"
The sound of my knocking drowns out his shrill voice. A tall, sun-darkened boy answers the door. For a moment, his eyes widen in surprise, but he quickly puts on a smile. "What can I do for you gentlemen?"
He knows that I came from the capital. Somehow, people always know. "Never mind. I've got the wrong house. I was looking for vicious Aleah's family."
An attractively-dressed girl, even by capital standards, edges into the room. "Oooh! You're in the right place. Come in!"
I know them now as Aleah's twin brother Sean and sister Talia. By the time that Rigel has the camera equipment unpacked, little Yianna and the parents have gathered. Eager to finish and edit my tapes in a nice capital sauna, I start.
"Aleah has two kills in the games. Are you surprised that she had it in her?"
"She's been killing my sanity for years," Talia pipes up.
Her mother speaks more evenly. "Aleah has never cared for social graces. I never doubted that she would do what she had to do to come home to us." She wipes away a tear. "I just hope it's soon."
The usual consolation for the sobbing I get every year is that I don't have to deal with it on the trains. The way that Rigel sniffles behind the camera, though, tells me that this year will be different.
"What will you do if she does come home?" I ask.
"I'll be alive again," Sean answers. "I miss my sister more than I can tell you. If she doesn't come home I don't even know what I'll do."
The room grows silent except for Rigel's sniffling. I'll have to edit that out later. Finally, Mr. Armani speaks up. "She's got chores to catch up on. It's not easy owning a ranch in District Ten."
"Ask me something!" pudgy Yianna pipes up. "I want to answer for TV!"
"Wouldn't you like to get reaped, too, so that you can answer lots of questions for all of Panem?"
Her face falls. "I don't think so."
Sean leaps forward. "You need to go now!"
I nod to Rigel, who starts folding up the equipment. "Sure thing kiddo, I can't wait."
My destination in District Nine is closer to the tracks, and the streets are far less dusty. Even so, the jailhouse stinks and it takes a large slice of pepper jack to take the taste of mildew out of my mouth. The walls are peeling paint but I can throw another backdrop behind the shot later on. Capital audiences don't need to see rusting bars and filthy walls. I'll let them see the prisoners in a pleasant whitewashed room. I let the other five crowd into the shot with Ari Locus' father. There's not room for them to go anywhere else, anyway.
It doesn't take me long to start. "I think everyone watching this year's Hunger Games has the same question. Ari left a perfectly good sword on the ground and refuses to kill anyone. Why is your son such a wuss?"
I realize that the group is all staring at me in shock. Their clothes aren't as dirty as I expected which will be good for presentation. The guards probably allowed them to change into something else for this occasion. Now they shuffle nervously in the cramped space. Ari's father speaks first. "My son is not a wuss. He is still alive this far into the fight. That shows intelligence and I wouldn't want him to kill except to save his own life. If, as you say, everyone watching has that question, then no one watching has as much of a heart as Ari does. I am terrifically proud of him."
I resolve to shorten that spiel into a couple of pithy words. "Okay. Next question. Do you think that he will forget you if he wins and moves to Victor's Village?"
"I think that he'll do all he can to get me there too. Maybe the Peacekeepers will let me go. Maybe they won't. But I know that's what my boy will do."
I eye the two teens of reaping age. "Honestly, I don't think Ari is handling the arena well. He's making memorials for dead people and listening to a music box. He's going to die. But aren't you glad that you have a little more stretching room in your cell with him gone?"
The both turn red, but only the girl, Caia, answers. "We're all Ari's family here, not just his dad. Ari is caring, funny, and sleeps like a log. I don't want him to die."
Rigel elbows me as we step onto the train. "You can be very insensitive Mr. Apollo."
"You'd better keep my cheese wrapped. We've got a long ways to go yet."
To my frustration, Nella Burchalyn's family does not gather in an orderly manner. Her mother and father argue about whether we should shoot the interview inside the family furniture shop to promote business. While they bicker I drag two Burchalyn-made rocking chairs and a loveseat to a grassy area on the edge of the forest.
I bring the family out in none-too-gentle terms. The mom and dad have evidently made up for they sit on the loveseat together. A good-looking young man named Cedar takes one chair and a better-looking girl named Marina takes the other. I spot a small girl peeking out from the edge of the woods. I guess that she is Nella's friend Ashe and wave her over.
Hearing a thud behind me, I twirl around to see Rigel picking up the camera with shaking hands. "What's wrong with you?" I snap, "Can't you even hold the camera anymore? I can't believe they sent you with me."
Rigel gulps and tries to get into position, but he still trembles like a leaf. "I'm sorry Mr. Apollo. This doesn't usually happen. I just, I just…."
It also doesn't usually happen that my assistant is short on words. I help him position the camera toward the seated group and made sure that he won't need to touch it again until the interview is over.
Only then do I realize that his eyes keep straying to the older girl. Marina's hair flutters on a slight breeze. I note that her freckled face and blue-green eyes are indeed charming. I might find her distracting myself if my thoughts didn't keep running back to another woman.
I clear my throat. "Let's get started. Nella chose to take a diary into the arena as her token. What is that about?"
"It's who she is," Nella's father speaks up. "My daughter has imagination, something that we need here in District Seven. She's not a fighter, so I told her that her pen is her sword. Whatever happens to her, I don't want her to forget that."
"I want to ask a question," Rigel chirps. "May I Mr. Apollo?"
I shrug in indifference. I can always edit it out later if it isn't amusing.
Rigel grins in appreciation. "Are you seeing anyone, Marina?"
The sea-colored eyes flash in indignation. Marina's mother elbows her, and I knew why. Having connections with the capital bodes well for the district savages. Marina quickly spits out a refusal, though. "I would never go anywhere with you, not after the way that you stole my sister from us!"
I won't need to cut it out. Panem can laugh it up at Rigel's expense for all I care. He shrinks away while Cedar pats his sister's arm in encouragement and Ashe scoots closer to the older girl.
"That leads up to my next question," I say. "Nella fell head-over-heels for Auracaria Chekhov. How long do you think it will take her to get over his death?"
"I'll never get over it!" Ashe bursts out. "My brother shouldn't have had to die. It's torn up my whole family. And look at what Nella's reaping is doing here!" She waves her hand around. "They're arguing more now, crying at night, whispering about what they'll do if she doesn't come home. Look at Cedar. He used to crack more jokes than anyone I've ever met. Now he's solemn all the time."
I look at him, as all of television-viewing Panem will. He is indeed sitting silently, but I can hardly know if that's something new. I shrug. "At least it will be over soon. The gamemakers have plenty of tricks up their sleeves if the tributes get too boring."
No one replies. The rocking chairs are even too well-made to creak. District scum do not know how to make good television.
District Five has two tributes remaining. It allows the kind of efficiency I only appreciate when I'm away from my automated wardrobe.
I decide to interview Claus Hendall's family first. They have a decent home with comfortable furniture, so the living room makes a perfect place for the interview. I don't need my audience feeling sorry for the poverty in the districts, after all.
Claus's mother and father sit with stony faces, not betraying any emotion yet. Having a pleasant, well-kept house by district standards counts for something in my book, but having some kind of reaction to their child fighting in the Hunger Games will count for more if I can get it.
I vow to force something out of them, even if it takes getting Rigel to make funny faces behind my back. "Mr. and Mrs. Hendall," I warm up, "you have a lovely home, perhaps with a few too many bookshelves for my taste, but, all in all, very nice. In fact, I would venture to say that you are lacking in nothing but having the honor of having a child win the Hunger Games. Did your son recognize this when he joined in with the careers?"
"I don't think…" Claus's father stops mid-sentence, and I can't see why.
"What? He doesn't love you?"
His mother goes from one end of the spectrum to the other in an instant. Her passive face suddenly burst into tears. I can barely hear myself think over her sobbing. "Of course he loves us. I mean, we don't talk any more, but we just want him to know that we love him."
"We had so many chances to tell him," the father says. "We just need one more."
At that moment I hear a thundering at the door over the sound of the mother's sobbing. A boy and a girl, both red-faced and breathing heavily from running, burst in. I remember them from my file as Claus's friends Ryne and Gerall.
"Interview us!" Ryne shouts. "We care if he comes home. Ask us anything."
I'm not against leaving my difficult subjects for these two new ones. "Does Claus have an imaginary friend?" I ask.
"What?" Ryne questions. "Of course not. He's seventeen years old. We've seen him blacking out, talking to himself, but it's only to help himself think."
"Not that he needs help," Gerall chimes in.
"Oh, I think that he does need help," I snicker. "Claus is a lunatic, and who needs a lunatic?"
"We need a lunatic! I mean…"
Ryne tries to correct herself, but I've already punched the power button on the camera. I have all I want.
"Let me handle the camera," Rigel grumbles as we leave. "I'm not shaking anymore."
"Absolutely. You handle the heavy stuff. I'm ready to handle a piece of gouda."
I have just finished it off when we reach the next house. Aella Dekas' parents are home, as is an attractive girl named Cleo. Two boys, undoubtedly Aella's friends Pascal and Flynn, are trudging by on the street and follow us into the house.
The house looks good enough for the shoot. The carpet has a permanent mud trail running through the house, but, fortunately, that won't be in the camera view. As soon as I arrange some chairs and convince Cleo to come back out of the bedroom, I begin. Rigel stands away from the camera. I pulled it from his hands before Cleo could inspire his nervous shakes to loosen his grip.
"Did you expect Aella to make it this far?"
Cleo shakes her head. "When I saw her scorn the careers, no. I told her that she should ally with them, but she didn't take my advice. But she's grown into someone who has a chance. She has a good weapon now. She had allies. Or, at least, there are a couple of tributes left who won't kill her. And my little sis has grown into a woman. Did you see her interview? She may not have grace yet, but she knows who she is."
"Of course I saw the interviews." Rigel replays them every chance that he gets.
"What about you?" I address Pascal. "Your father won the Hunger Games. If you could give your friend any advice right now, what would it be?"
He thinks for a moment before he replies. "I don't' agree with Cleo. Aella doesn't need to be a woman now. She needs to get dirty and fight like she did with Flynn and I, except to the death. When she comes home, then she can be a woman."
I can hear Rigel sniffling again. Next year, I'll refuse to bring him. "She won't come back as Aella," I taunt. Once they see death, and she has, they're always haunted by it."
Flynn springs from his chair. "We don't care what she's been through. If you think that that makes us want her back any less, there's something wrong with you."
Rigel shakes his head when we left the house. "There's so much anger and sadness in these families. It's almost like…."
"…they don't appreciate that we let the districts survive at all," I finish before he says something that I would have to report. I don't dislike Rigel quite that much.
The crashing of the sea fills my ears even before we leave the train in District Four. Few of the houses stretched out along the coastline look worthy of being filmed, but the Dorian house looks worse than most, or perhaps it is just the air of neglect about it. When the door squeaks open, I meet a tall teenager. I try to remember my information on the Dorians but I can recall no one but the father and thirteen-year-old Maris. "Who are you?" I demand.
"I'm Brock," he answers. "I'm looking after things until Moss gets back."
I can sense a golden opportunity already. I motion for Rigel to get out the camera, but, to his credit, he already has it half-unpacked. By the time he finishes I can see a younger boy peering out of the dark house.
Even though the front door hangs crookedly, I choose to start taping right there. "Why are you so sure that Moss is coming home?"
Brock doesn't even blink. "He's determined to. All it takes is determination and skill. He's been training, so he has both. It's ridiculous that he had to do this to take care of his brother, but there's no way that he's not coming back to Maris."
Moss's father appears at the door. "I didn't even know that my son was training," he said. He clenched Maris's shoulders as if they were stress beads. "Brock is right. He shouldn't have had to go. He's teaching me how to be a man, not the other way around."
I peer inside the house, considering moving the interview to a better location, but one look at the couch turns me around. "This is D4. Are you disappointed that Moss allied against the careers?"
Maris looks at me through angry tears. "He's the best brother in the world. He didn't go to kill. He went to help us out." He buries his face in his father's arm, sobbing. "I want him back."
"Someone had to tell you kiddo," I say. "If your brother wins he's not all yours. You'll have to share him with the capital ladies."
"I don't understand. Why do I…."
The door gets its much-needed coat of paint as Brock slams it against my nose. Red blood spurts across it. I muse that Brock wouldn't have made a bad tribute himself provided that the cornucopia was supplied with doors.
I stop the flow of blood as best I can. The taste of iron has gotten into my mouth, though. I get a piece of sharp cheddar from Rigel to take away the taste. The sea air has defiled it though, and I just end up with a salty mouth. I can't wait to get back to the capital's thin air.
Rigel walks past the train station, down the seaside street. "Where are you going?" I demand.
"I'm going to Victors' Village. I'm not the only one of us two who has a tribute guide. Elia Zervakos's husband won the Hunger Games."
"He's a mentor you idiot. He's in the capital." I'd already interviewed Elia's husband, and I play the video for Rigel's benefit as we race toward District Three.
"I have a coveted one-on-one interview with Alex Zervakos," I began. He sat across from me, looking infinitely at ease. "How," I ask, "can you, as a past victor and mentor, help Elia to win?"
It took a moment for his eyes to focus on me. "I know what she needs. I know exactly how long it took me in the arena to need water or food, and I have the power to push a button and send her whatever parachute she needs. And I love Elia. It's more than my experience that lets me know what she's going through, because we might argue, but she's as much a part of me as anything."
"Do you think your influence will be enough?"
He seemed to wake from distant thoughts again. "Elia can hold her own. She's a fighter, but I'm going to do my best to bring them back."
"Them? You can't bring Moss out too."
"I said I'd do my best, Apollo."
I had detected a note of irritation in the surprisingly easy-going celebrity's voice. "I'm not going to be able to interview Elia's family in District Four, due to time constraints." After all, I didn't want to spend any extra time in the boondocks when I could do my interview in the capital. "Is there anything that they would want to tell her now?"
"Her token is a necklace of shells," Alex said. "Someone gave it to her to help her remember that she is not someone who gives up." He didn't name any names, which irritated me, but I knew that he knew what fame in the capital could bring.
I closed the interview. "Thank you Alex. How hot is it to have a wife who has murdered almost as many people as you?"
He got up and strode off-camera. "All I can say to that is that, Apollo, is that your beard looks ridiculous. You might have made it work during the twenty-third games, but not these."
"This is why I save time for editing," the present me tells Rigel.
When we reach District Three I feel relieved, not because I like it any better, but because it is one step closer to the civilization of the capital.
I munch on some provolone as we leave the train. "We're almost out of cheese, Rigel. Why didn't you pack more?"
"We've still got the fondue pot."
"Fondue? Do I look like I want fondue?"
Rigel shrugs. "I've never been able to dec…"
I leave him and the equipment out of earshot as I hurry to the front door of Jules Surket's house. A young man who I peg as Jules's brother Qulome answers the door to scowl at me. "I suppose that I'd better let you in," he says, "just to keep from pissing you people off against Jules."
"It would be a nice gesture." I push my way past him into a room full of people circled around a television. I scan the group that alternates their glares between me and the screen, trying to identify everyone from my information. Besides Qulome and his girlfriend Rochelle, I identify Jules's father and mother and her friends Kane, Emben, and Jay. An old man that I can't figure out sits in the corner.
"Who are you?" I demand.
"That's none of your business," he growls. "I'm just a guy with no one to repair his own TV, that's all."
On the screen, Elia Zerkavos is packing up a tent and discussing nightmares. I don't see what they all find so gripping about the scene. When Rigel gets the camera set up, I start firing questions, unsure if anyone will answer. "Jules hasn't killed anyone yet. Will she kill any other tributes at all?"
Five different voices start in at once before Kane prevails. "We have complete faith that she will do what she has to do to win," he says solemnly.
"Are you proud of her?"
Both parents answer at once, like echoes of each other. "We will only be more proud when she wins."
Rigel's shrill voice hurts my ear. He seems to think he's whispering. "They rehearsed their answers. It's why Jules is such a planner; she came from a family of planners. Or maybe they got it from her. Anyway, you've got to say something to throw them off, Mr. Apollo."
I have to admit that the guy has a good point. "Audiences like action," I point out loudly. "If the head gamemaker doesn't get it from Jules, she'll bring it to her."
This time I get little more than a grunt from the old man. Under his breath follows, "Let her."
"Come on," I tell Rigel. I feel an increasing impatience to get back to the capital. As soon as I can change into a nice tuxedo and get my wounded nose made up by my stylist, I'm going to see Phoenix, the only woman as sadistic as she is beautiful and as crafty as she is charming.
Rigel's voice carries disappointment as we board the train. "Our adventure is over."
I sigh. "Have you been watching the games at all? There are nine tributes left. I have to work ahead so that I can edit out all your snuffling, after all. We're headed to District Two."
Hyre Fletching reverberates with an awful noise, like someone using an ax on a piano. When I step through the open door, I realize that's exactly what it is. Hyre's father sits in the living room with his television tuned to the Hunger Games while a grinning Jaime attacks the piano behind him.
To my relief, he stops when he sees me. "Interview time!" he crows.
"Are you glad that Hyre went to the games instead of his twin Jaime?" I ask the father when I get him to turn away from the dark tunnel scene.
"It's his one chance," he answers. "My son has disappointed me so many times, but I admire the games for the opportunity they give for redemption. There's nothing else that he could do in so little time to make me proud of him. It's like they've given my son a second chance to…"
"OK, thanks," I say. On screen, Elia Zervakos pulls a trident from Hyre Fletching's body.
"That's it?" Rigel questions as I rush him to pack up the camera. "I thought that was beautiful. You're leaving with no snide insults or shocking questions?"
"That's it Rigel. Too bad. No one cares now."