Barbed Wire

Written by Loverly Souris

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Chapter 1 – Puzzles and results

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On the day before Wiress' fifth birthday, her mother takes her hand with a warm smile and dresses her up in her prettiest clothes that are saved for special occasions. After that, Westa starts working on her daughter's black hair, braiding and tying it up in a sweet bun. Wiress can definitely feel that something is going to happen, something extraordinary, otherwise she wouldn't prepare her this thoroughly.

"Where are we going, mom?" she asks while Westa slips a pair of leather boots onto her tiny feet and tie them. It was snowing a lot last night.

Her mother strokes her face, her hand is wonderfully warm despite of the cold. "It's a secret, dear, but I'm sure you'll like it," she answers and Wiress smiles back at her. If she says so, then it will be fun.

When they are ready, Wiress runs out to the living room cheerfully and darts towards her father who is sitting in his armchair, deep in thought. Strange wrinkles adorn his forehead, somehow reminding her of the thick clouds of smog that block the sunlight, but it all clears up as he sees his little girl and he laughs at her twirling and jumping around. "Look, dad, this dress is so beautiful!"

In the entire District 3, Géral Creever has the most melodious laugh. The people here hasn't got many things to laugh at, but he has a special talent to find even the faintest opportunities to crack a harmless joke or a witty comment, and he always earns a chain of laughter and grins. Sometimes, it is enough to hear him laugh, and simply that can make everything better. He can turn unbearable sorrow into bright happiness.

"You are the real beauty here, little wire!" Géral exclaims with fascination and pulls Wiress onto his lap. "The dress is just a piece of rag compared to you."

"Dad, when mom and I get back from the secret place, can I get a present?"

"A present?" Géral widens his eyes with fake surprise. "What for?"

Wiress pouts. "It's my birthday, dad, did you forget?"

"If I remember well, your birthday is tomorrow, not today. Right?"

"Yeah, but can't you give me my present today?"

Géral smiles and plants a kiss on Wiress' forehead. "You have to learn how to be patient. It's very important. Patience is a virtue, little wire."

"Okay," Wiress says cuddling up to her father's chest. "Then I'll wait until tomorrow."

The man chuckles. "That's my girl."

When Westa shows up in the room, Géral pretends to faint and grabs his head. "Oh goodness, another beauty appeared! Poor me, I'm lost forever!"

"Stop it, Géral," Westa shakes her head, but a smile is playing on her lips. "Come, Wiress dear, it's time to go."

The little girl jumps down from her father's lap and hops to her mother who bends down to put a coat around her. When she straightens, Géral is standing right in front of her, his dark eyes watching her seriously behind the round glasses. The wrinkles slowly creep back onto his forehead.

"Let's hope that she won't be good enough, shall we?" he says quietly with a bitter half-smile, glancing down at his daughter. Wiress doesn't hear him – she gets distracted by the large dancing snowflakes that start to fall outside the window and while she is watching them mesmerized, the world seems to stop for her.

Westa, who has never been as optimistic as Géral, shudders as tears gather in her grey eyes. "But she is, Géral. You know she is…"

The man wraps his arms around his wife and runs his hand up and down on her back. Of course he knows – Wiress is one of the most intelligent children of her age. "You have to be strong, love," he whispers into her black curls. "We've already talked about this, remember?"

"Yes…" Westa whimpers. However, this is the day that she has been dreading ever since Wiress was born, and no matter how many times she has replayed this scenario in her head, now all the angst of these years has been dropped on her with an enormous weight. She has no idea what she would do without Géral, who is always trying his best to balance the darkness in her mind with his own light.

"She might have a chance to fail. The tasks are probably much more difficult than in our times. It's not that easy to get in." A mere, feeble hope to hold onto.

"Yes, maybe," Westa nods and Géral lifts her head by her chin, turning her face towards him.

"Be strong," he repeats and kisses her gently on the lips. When they break apart, he reaches up and brushes away her remaining tears with the sleeve of his shirt. "Now go, or you'll never get back, not even for supper."

Westa grabs Wiress gloved hand, puts on her hood and they are gone.

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During the fifteen minute walk to the Central Office, Wiress is still preoccupied by the gently falling snow. She catches the flakes with her glove, marvelled at the different shapes of the crystals, asking Westa various questions about them, seemingly wanting to know everything. And the woman answers, happy for the distraction, for her daughter unwittingly leading her mind away from what is going to happen.

Although, as they arrive at the office, Westa has to stop for a while to overcome her fear.

"Mom, what's wrong?" Wiress asks, staring at her with her father's black eyes.

Be strong.

"No, it's nothing," Westa says. "Let's go inside."

After checking in by the reception desk, they are lead into a small corridor with a few chairs and lots of doors – it isn't a friendly place, and Wiress instantly snuggles closer to Westa. They stop before an office with the nametag "Dr. Iona Heller – Head Examiner, Sector of Talents" on its closed door and wait.

There is no one else besides them, and this only adds to Westa's silent anxiety. She tries to compose herself, for her daughter's sake, but her face is even paler than usual, and she cannot hide the shivers that occasionally run down her spine either. Wiress feels her worry, and, though she really wants to ask some questions on this place as well, she talks about the snow again, happily reciting everything Westa told her, avoiding the topic that seemingly makes her mother so sick. Finally, she can feel the long slender fingers around her small hand relax a bit.

However, the door opens revealing a woman in a long white coat – she is in her forties and wearing a soft smile as she steps to them. "Nice to meet you, I'm Dr. Iona Heller. You must be Mrs. Creever," she says on a kind tone and the two women shake hands.

"Nice to meet you," Westa says quietly.

"And you are Wiress, aren't you?" Dr. Heller crouches down next to the little girl and holds out her hand to her as well. She mimics what Westa has just done, a bit clumsily, and the doctor grins. "How are you today?"

"Curious," Wiress answers, earning a laugh from Dr. Heller.

"That's good, that's good. Now please, come with me into my office and we'll start the tasks right away."

"Um… excuse me, but can I go in with her?" Westa asks, though she already knows the answer.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Creever, but it's forbidden for the parents to be present on their children's examination. You know, it can affect the results."

"Of course…" she nods and sits back onto the chair. Wiress grabs her hand for one last time and give her a brilliant smile.

"Don't worry, mom. I'll do my best."

Little does she know that this is what her mother wants the least.

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In the following hour, Wiress is really enjoying herself. First, Dr. Heller puts a few sheets of paper before her and asks her to draw several things – houses, clouds, people and so on. Then she gives her a bunch of funny shaped metal loops that are somehow tangled and her task is to separate them. The doctor calls these toys "disentanglement puzzles", and Wiress likes them, though in the end they start to get really boring because she solves them so quickly.

She has to build a tower from colourful blocks – she has to memorize and recite as many as she can from those fifty random words Dr. Heller reads out for her – she has to go through a maze with a pendulum on a stick that sends a small electric current into her hand if she chooses the wrong path. Wiress fulfils each and every task excellently. Her tower is so solid that only an earthquake can destroy it, she can remember not just every word but even their order and the maze is a piece of cake for her as well. When, as a final task, she assembles a small machine made of plastic parts that works perfectly, Dr. Heller is sure Wiress is a rare gemstone who will definitely have a future.

"This is the end of the examination," the doctor says as she takes some final notes. She has been doing it all the while. "Thank you, Wiress, you did a great job. Now, go back to your mother. I'll tell you the results in twenty minutes."

The little girl smiles proudly and exits the office. "Mom, I'm done!" she says letting Westa hug her tightly. This one hour was pure agony for her – as soon as the door closed behind her daughter, she felt like she would never see her again, never hear her sweet voice. She was biting her nails so hard that blood is still oozing from some of her fingers.

But now, Wiress is here, and Westa's heart calms down a bit.

"It was fun!" she smiles and starts to talk about the tasks eagerly – she only stops when the door opens again and Dr. Heller appears with a stack of papers.

"I have the results of the examination," she says, stepping closer to Westa who stands up, her knees shaking slightly. "Wiress has done every task very well, more than well actually. She has proven to have outstanding abilities in diagnostics, problem solving and visual processing, and her intelligence quotient exceeds the average by far." The doctor smiles down at her. "Practically, she is a child prodigy."

She hands Westa the documents. "Here, you can find the detailed results for each field of the examination. You have to keep these documents, they are necessary for the registration in the Sector of Talents."

That is when it finally hits Westa. "S-so… she passed the test, didn't she?"

Dr. Heller nods. "Of course she did, and I dare to say that she is going to be a top student. You should be really proud of your daughter."

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Wiress doesn't understand. They are sitting around the dining table, her father, her mother and her, but she is the only one who is eating. The wrinkles on Géral's forehead are much deeper than in the morning and Westa is crying so much it reminds the little girl of a faucet that somebody forgot to turn off. She has no idea what's wrong, but she suspects that it has to do something with this "examination" and her mother's bad state in the office.

Is it her fault? Has she done something wrong? The pride of fulfilling the tasks well flew away as soon as she saw the look on Westa's face when the doctor announced the results. And what is this "Sector of Talents" anyway? Some kind of school? Wiress wants to ask, but she knows she shouldn't. It seems that Géral does not like that place, and Westa is downright terrified of it.

So the little girl eats her mashed potatoes in silence which is only broken by her mother's quiet sobs.

"Dad, why is mom so sad?" Wiress asks Géral later, when he comes into her small room to tuck her into bed. The man ruffles her hair lovingly.

"Nothing can hide from your attention, little wire," he says. "Don't worry, she is just a bit tired."

Of course, Wiress doesn't believe him, but she nods. "I hope she'll cheer up."

"She will, I'm sure." Géral smiles. "I will bring both of you out on a small trip tomorrow."

Wiress' face lights up. "Really? Where are we going?"

"You'll see it tomorrow. Now sleep, my little wire. Sweet dreams."

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It is late evening when the family gets back from the outing and Géral parks the car in front of the block of flats they live in. He glances at Westa who is sitting next to him – though the trip helped her a bit, now she seems to feel worse than ever, threatening to break down at any moment. Géral grabs her hand and kisses it tenderly.

"It's okay," he whispers quietly with a reassuring smile as she looks at him, then they both turn towards their daughter.

Wiress is sitting in the back, playing with a mechanical bird she has just received for her birthday. It was created by Géral himself – silver and brass-coloured gears, screws and pieces of metal make up its body and it stands on legs of thick wire. Its eyes are two blue LEDs that light up when she pushes on a tiny button on the back of the bird. Wiress has never seen anything this beautiful before, she is so fascinated with its details that she hasn't put it down since she received it, not even for a second. This is certainly a present that was worth waiting for.

She is so small… Westa thinks and a tear glides down on her cheek.

Both of them know what is going to happen – they were out for the whole day, so there is probably a group of Peacekeepers waiting in front of their flat already. This is the day of Wiress' fifth birthday and the day when the Sector of Talents is going to take her away from them.

Géral and Westa used to be the students of the Sector as well – after they had passed the examination, they were violently separated from their families at the age of five and were enrolled into this school. Isolated until they turned eighteen, they had no idea about the world while they attended classes in the morning and worked in the evening. The purpose of Sector has always been to select those with congenital intelligence and carve them into useful geniuses to serve the District and Panem.

This is the surface – but underneath it lies such a cruelty that only the former students know. The majority of the Talents break down under the strict schedule, the impossible amount of work and the constant terror that lingers between the walls. The suicide rate is very high – but, of course, nobody knows the exact numbers. The Sector of Talents is the miniature version of the Capitol, which is not surprising since it is mainly run by teachers and officers from there.

"Let's go inside," Westa says softly and they step out of the car. As soon as Wiress hops onto the ground, Géral grabs her effortlessly and sits her onto his shoulders, both laughing happily. A small smile manages to escape onto Westa's lips at this sight.

It is exactly as they predicted – three armed Peacekeepers in white uniforms are standing in front of their apartment. "We have been waiting for you, Mr. Creever. We almost thought that you'd never come back," one of them, a short man says strictly and Géral narrows his black eyes.

"As if we could escape from your watchful eyes, sir," he mutters and unlocks the door of the flat.

"Would you care for a cup of tea? You must have been waiting for such a long time," Westa says with as much fake and bitter hospitality as she can muster without her voice trembling. She wants nothing more than to put poison into their drinks and watch them die a dreadful, disgusting death.

"No, madam, we are ordered to transport Miss Creever to the Sector of Talents today," another Peacekeeper, a woman says on a deep voice.

Wiress, who was already put down onto the floor, startles. They are going to take me away? Is it because of that test? She watches that strange, scary woman come closer to her grabbing her hand, but Westa steps between them and shoves her behind her skirt.

"Don't touch my daughter," she hisses. Her grey eyes are glinting with hatred – a mother mockingjay protecting her nest.

But then, the third Peacekeeper pulls out his gun and points it at Westa's temple. "I warn you, madam, any resistance meets with punishment. We advise you to give up your-" However, he cannot finish his sentence, because he drops to his knees as a large wound opens on his stomach. Blood gushes up from it with frightening intensity, soaking the brown carpet.

"Nobody aims a gun at my wife!" Géral exclaims with fury. In his hand, there is a small device he constructed – a metal handle with a button that triggers a laser beam so powerful it can even cut iron.

It all happens in a mere second. A dreadful bang shakes the room and Géral falls down with a large gaping hole on his forehead signalling the place where the bullet entered his head.

"GÉRAL!" Westa screams. She kneels down to him, grabbing his hand that is starting to turn cold. He is dead – the one who always cheered her up, who defeated her darkness with light, who loved her despite of what she really is… a broken, mad woman with no future. Géral has created a future for her… and now, it has been taken away…

Dead… taken away… darkness… Géral… Géral…

Westa lunges herself at the other woman who is still holding the gun which killed her husband, and her hands wrap themselves around her temple. With a heartbreaking, almost devilishly insane cry, her thumbs find the Peacekeepers eyes and she puts as much pressure on her fingers as she just can, earning a painful howl as the delicate eyeballs make a horrible popping sound.

The gun fires one more time, and Westa releases the Peacekeeper. She got the bullet from the woman's weapon into her chest, so she doesn't die immediately – she has enough life in her to follow with her eyes as the other male Peacekeeper grabs the utterly terrified Wiress who is in such a shock that she cannot even cry. She watches the man tear the mechanical bird from the little girl's hands and drop it into the pool of blood. She can still see him guide his blinded partner to the door and shut it behind them. And then, she can only hear her own heavy breathing.

"G-Géral…" Westa whispers and she creeps closer to her loved one. Her blood-stained fingers curl around his hand once again, for a last time before her vision blurs and she drifts into eternal peace.

The mechanical bird mourns them in the deafening silence.

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Thank you for reading chapter 1. :)

So how did you like it? Honestly, I feel a bit cruel for killing her parents, but it was necessary for the plot. :( Also, I wanted to give Wiress a different background – that's why I came up with the idea of the Sector.

Do you think I should continue this? Any constructive criticism is welcomed. :)