Disclaimer: Mei and Isis are very grieved to report that they do not own the Hunger Games. If they did, they would have the wonderful idea to change said Hunger Games only a bit, and throw some politicians in as contestants. But sadly, they do not.
A/N: This was a complete ball for both of us to write. Action, angst, fluff, humour and Sue-baiting. More fun than two humans should have.
Tossing the sexual innuendo ball back and forth was fun too.
Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society fic - if you don't know who we are, this won't make sense. Check our archive for a better explanation.
Also, we kinda scared ourselves with the pure awesome that came out as we worked together. This fic might be the start of a series of collabs. Any formatting issues, we're sorry. Its because half of this was written on facebook and msn.
But enough basking in our glory, spectacular, clever and beautiful as we – ahem! Sorry – it is. On with the show!
Insert Reality TV Gone Wrong Here
Soft humming was broken by a sharp cough.
"Must you do that?"
Emily looked up from the bizarre machine sitting in her lap to stare through the bars of the nearest cell. She sat cross legged on the floor with her toolkit by her side, row after row of basement cells stretching out on either side of her. Some Sues lay on their beds, thinking or daydreaming. Others read books or busied themselves with paper and pencils. But they were all listening – the silence proved that.
"Why?" Emily asked, tapping the screwdriver against her chin and giving Ash an unconcerned look. "Does it bother you?"
"Well since you're drastically out of tune," Ash sneered. "Yes, it does bother me."
Emily shrugged. "Not my problem." She went back to her tinkering. Ash growled softly and started rapping his knuckle on one of the bars.
Twisting her screwdriver two hundred and seventy degrees counter-clockwise, Emily found herself humming again. The Deus Ex Machina in her lap still bore tooth marks from where Combee had been playing with it a month ago, and a handful of wires hung from the side with their brightly coloured casings stripped off the ends. Carefully, she took one of the wires with blue casing, and inserted it in the first hole of the terminal block. Humming the next line of the song, she began to screw the wire in place when she became conscious of the fact that she was not the only one making noise.
Slumped against the bars of her cell, Roxelana was humming the song in perfect tandem. Confused and a little frightened, Emily stopped and turned to look at her. Roxelana had not spoken a word for months and now as she continued to hum the rest of the chorus, she too turned her head slowly like a doll and gave Emily a wide smile. There was no warmth in her black eyes at all.
Unnerved, Emily went back to screwing the wires in place, not daring to make a single sound, shooting cautious glances from beneath her lashes at the bars where Roxelana lay. Ash stopped rapping his knuckle in favour of watching the short impromptu concert. He grinned, and settled back for the show.
Roxelana had not become silent after Emily had stopped humming, instead switching to whistling a slow, haunting version of "The Farmer in the Dell". Emily shook her head to herself in an attempt to ignore the whistling.
Another turn of the screw and something inside the device sparked with an audible 'BZZT!'
"What the..." Emily had barely spoken above a whisper, but everyone heard it, and turned to listen. Roxelana alone remained where she was, still whistling, but Emily was not paying any attention to her any more. Sharply, she jammed the edge of the screwdriver under the panelling and prised it open. Inside, she saw a handful of wires in red, yellow and blue. Eyes widening, she reached in and felt what they were connected to. Horror dawning on her slowly, she pulled on the terminal block that she had just been screwing, and followed the blue wires to where they were attached.
The buzzing sound was growing louder, and Emily leaped to her feet and threw the Deus Ex Machina as hard as she could.
"FIRE IN THE HOLE!" she yelled, cowering back on her knees and covering her ears just as the machine clattered to the floor a safe distance away, and the buzzing became a high pitched screech of warning.
The screeching rose to a crescendo as the rest of the Sues got the idea and dove under their bunks. The sound warbled for a second, before going out in a squawk and a small pop following afterwards. A thin wisp of smoke was the only sign that anything extraordinary had happened.
Emily popped her head out from under her arms. "...that's it?" she blinked, and stared at the Deus Ex Machina. "Really? That's it?"
It was still spewing a little bit of smoke now, but nothing else, though Emily suspected that it was probably more broken now than before.
Cautiously she approached, and prodded it with her toe.
"Careful," Tabitha, who had been curled up in a corner of her cell, now crept forwards on all fours. Gently, Emily crouched down and gave the device a few more pokes before she decided that it was safe enough to handle. She picked it up and turned it around in her hands. It was completely inert. Even the noisy buzzing sound it had made was gone, leaving a silent and tense basement in its wake.
Emily froze in her spot. The Deus Ex Machina was not the only thing that had stopped singing.
Dropping the machine, the agent whipped her head towards the cell she knew the whistling had come from. Maybe Roxelana had just stopped to mess with her...
The cell was empty.
Ash himself was staring at the spot Roxelana had been slumped in, blinking as he tried to process what had happened. He felt Emily staring and turned to her, his own slasher smile growing on his face.
"Heh. Have fun, kid."
Emily felt panic rise like a flood. Instinct alone propelled her across the basement, to the large red emergency button on the wall. She slammed her clenched fist on it and the alarms exploded through the entire Library. The basement suddenly felt twice as dark and creepy as it usually did, and she bolted for the office, just as Harriet and Adrian came hurrying down the stairs.
"Emily I've told you before, running out of tea is not an emergency!" Adrian huffed.
Emily flailed her arms at him for a minute, frustration and panic warring at each other for a minute to see who got to say what first. The inert Deus Ex Machina rattled slightly in her hand as it jerked up and down. Frustration won.
"I am NOT out of tea!"
Harriet gave a small private smile at that.
"Then what happened?"
"I was working on the Deus Ex Machina." She waved it around some more – this time closer to their lines of sight. "And it started to spark, and make a high pitched noise, so I thought it was going to explode and so I threw it and dove for cover and when it finally stopped making noise, I looked up and Roxelana was gone!"
She managed it all in one breath, which was all it took for Adrian's face to darken, and for him to sprint off down the other end of the basement. They heard him cursing in a language they could only guess at.
Emily rolled her eyes. "Well duh! I just told you she was." But only Harriet heard her, and she was too busy pulling out her communicator from her jam-packed handbag.
"All agents report to the briefing room. This is not a tea drill! I repeat, this is not a tea drill people!"
Harriet and Emily were the last to get to the briefing room, and it was full of loud chatter as people tried to figure out what was going on, or just plain carrying on with no regard for order.
Harriet dumped her handbag in her seat at the head of the table. Behind her, Fish Finger appeared in the glass wall of her tank and began to circle lazily around for everyone's amusement.
"Settle down!" Harriet shouted, doing a quick headcount, and mentally tallying up who was in the Library today. "Settle down!" The loud anxious chatter continued, and Harriet let out a sigh before cupping her hands around her mouth.
"I HAVE CANDY!"
Everyone fell silent.
"Thank you," the leader said in her normal voice. She got on without preamble. "We've had a break out in the basement. Well..." she paused. "I say 'break out'...more accidental release..."
"What stupid moron lets one of the Sues escape?" Marcus asked incredulously.
"That stupid moron would be me," Emily growled at him.
"Oh..." Marcus shrank back down in his seat at the force of Emily's glare. Harriet huffed at the interruption.
"Anyway, a Sue has escaped and we don't know where she's gone. It could frankly be anywhere, though I pity her if she's landed in purple-dinosaur land..."
Inara spoke up. "Which Sue is it?"
Both Rhia and Cristoph went rigid, Rhia's face paling as the blood drained away. The silence hung for a while as everyone tried not to look at either of them. Finally Ben was the one who broke it.
"What do we do?"
Harriet exchanged a glance with Adrian. This was both of their responsibility, and they would be the ones to call the shots.
"Emily, Tashy and I will start combing the Library and all the CCTV footage," Adrian began. "If she's still in the Library, we'll know within the next six hours."
Harriet nodded. "I'll start up a multiverse wide search. Everyone else should search your areas of the Library and keep your eyes peeled. Rhia-" she frowned in thought before carrying on. "I know you won't like this, but I think you'd better stay in your room until we're sure the Library is clear."
Rhia met Harriet's gaze, a hard steel already appearing behind her eyes. "I don't need to be hidden away."
"I'm well aware of that," Harriet replied, drawing herself up to her full height. "But this isn't just for you. Do you think any of us want to open a door and find you've had your throat slit for real this time?"
There was a long silence as everyone contemplated this grim thought. Harriet finally broke it with a sigh.
"Look, at the very least, Cristoph should guard you for the next six hours. God knows Roxelana isn't getting past his rabid protectiveness. But I don't think you should be left alone while there is still a chance she could be here in the Library."
"Harriet-" Rhia began, but a disbelieving snort from Tash cut her off.
"Gods above Rhia! She just told you to go to your bedroom with your boyfriend and not come out for six hours! Most people would grab a box of condoms and lock the door behind them!"
A few smiles appeared around the table, and the tension eased somewhat. Rhia blushed lightly and squirmed.
"Alright, I see your point." She ran a hand through her hair. "Should we go now?"
Both Harriet and Tash nodded, with a serene smile and a teasing grin respectively. "Have fun you two," Tash waved, wriggling her eyebrows in a way that was far from innocent. Both Rhia and Cristoph turned red and scampered for the door.
"Right!" Harriet clapped her hands. "You have your tasks. Everyone get to them!"
There was a general shuffle as everyone got back to their feet, stretching and pushing their way towards the door. Harriet gathered up her official files (which did not actually contain anything but copies of All Out Cricket) and reached for her mug.
"Alright, who drank my tea?" she demanded at the retreating bodies, and there was an urgent surge as everyone hurried to escape faster. In amongst the crowd, Emily squeezed her way through the crush of bodies, wiping the last few drops from her mouth with the back of her hand as she hurried off back to the basement.
The door clicked shut behind the two, and the second click indicated the lock was engaged. Rhia leaned back against the solid wood; her eyes wide and staring into nothing. She was still pale from the revelation at the sudden Society meeting, and her breaths were coming short and fast, the walls already closing in on her, the light fading.
"Awwww…such a spoil sport, dear. I think I need to cheer you up. Otherwise, this date won't be much fun at all. We'll be starting soon, dear, don't worry.
Who is this Cristoph you were screaming for, dear? A brother? Oooooh, from your reaction I guess not. A lover, then?
You can't say a thing! And that's not the last thing I'm going to take away. No, first were your friends, and then your voice. Next it's your hearing, and then your sight. And then, well…You'll go the way of your clone."
There was a low, droning buzz in her ears. Her sight was already almost gone, the light dim and everything around her was unfocused and fuzzy. There was a pressure on her chest and she couldn't breathe, no matter how much air she drew into her lungs. Oh God, Roxelana was already playing with her.
"No, no, oh god no, please, let me go, no, no, nonononono…."
There was a voice, soft but insistent. "Rhia, she's not here, it's okay. Rhia…Rhiannon!"
"Nooo…please, no! I'm begging you…no…!"
There was pressure on her cheeks, warm and soft, holding her head still. "Shhh…it's okay. I'm here. Nothing will hurt you, I promise."
"Noooooo….please….nooo…." Her voice had degenerated into desperate whining, she knew, pathetic except in the weakest of creatures, but god if it meant she could get away—if she'd live-she'd do it.
That voice again, louder now. "Rhiannon, come back. Please, come back. Nothing will hurt you, I've got you." The voice was right in her ear now, breath warming her skin. "I love you. Come back to me, please."
Rhia gasped in air, sight clearing. "Cristoph?"
"I'm here." The ninja was on his knees on the floor with his lady, both of his hand cupping her face. "I'm here." He brought her close, one hand cradling her head, the other rubbing circles into her back. "Just breathe, Rhiannon. Just breathe. I've got you."
"What…?" She shuddered, pulling in one slow, deep breath after another.
"You panicked, milady." He nuzzled her hair, still rubbing her back.
"O-oh…" Another breath more, sucked in hard, and the tears started to stream down her face. "Sc-scared, Cristoph…I'm scared…"
"I know, Rhia, I know. I am too. Shhhh…" He kissed her forehead, then her eyes in an attempt to stop the tears.
Her eyes went wide, and she buried her head into the crook of his neck, pressing against him.
"I'm not losing you again. Ever." He resituated his arms, picking her up off the ground and standing, bringing her the few steps to her bed and laying her down. He pulled her shoes off and toed his off, pulling the covers up to cuddle close to her, arms wrapping around her protectively.
Rhia's crying wore down to whimpers, and then soft, tired breaths as she dozed off.
When Tash knocked on the door six hours later, Cristoph quietly waved her off in acknowledgement. She tilted her head. "She fell asleep?"
The ninja nodded, one eye still watching the sleeping form on the bed. "She panicked a bit, and has been dozing on and off since."
"Ah. All right. Shall I tell everyone to leave you alone for the time being?"
Tash nodded and quietly closed the door behind her.
It had been almost a week since Roxelana escaped and the Library had been declared safe, before things really went to hell.
Emily had no basement duty that week, and had instead been placed on monitor duty, and it was in that room she sat today, with her feet propped against the desk, sipping a cup of tea (milk and two sugars) with one hand, and tapping at her DS with the other, and complaining when yet another Ultra Ball failed to contain Lugia for her.
She huffed and nearly snapped the DS closed in frustration. "Lugia, next time I throw a ball, you will go into it, and STAY there."
The DS quivered under her glare.
Emily set herself up for another ball throw when the phone rang.
Contrary to what some people believed, the Library Arcanium, did have a phone number which could be called from anywhere in the multiverse. Along with calls for the Society, general calls for borrowing books, contacting the Librarian, and the messaging service for the Counter Guardians were all handled by the Library's automated switchboard.
It was rare that calls came through to the monitor room, but sometimes information (and on one occasion, a call from Alice's mother) had been put through. So it was more out of habit than curiosity, that Emily picked up the phone and announced "Thank you for calling the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. You have reached the monitor room. How may I help you?"
Apparently her introduction had gone unnoticed as a tirade of verbal abuse strong enough to make her ears bleed was her only greeting.
"I swear to Cthulhu if this switchboard tells me to press another button I'm gonn – hello? Oh great, someone picked up! Now who is this I'm talking to?"
Emily's fingers went numb and the phone slipped onto the floor with a loud clatter.
"OW!" the voice screeched indignantly. "Hello? Who is that?"
For the second time that week, Emily banged a fist on the nearest alarm button. The leaders appeared in a matter of seconds (Tash, Adrian and Michael flash-stepping, and Harriet being wheeled in on a litter by her slaves).
"Emily for the last freaking time!" Adrian burst out. "It's not an emergency if you run out of-"
"I HAVEN'T RUN OUT OF TEA! I'M NOT STUPID!" Emily screamed back in his face, brandishing her full mug to illustrate the point. She thrust the phone into Adrian's face. "It's Passion!"
Adrian stared dumbly at the phone for a minute, trying to process just how well Harriet had taught Emily. Shaking his head to clear it of frightening thoughts of the two taking over the multiverse, he took the phone. "What do you want, Passion?"
Passion and phones didn't seem to get along. "Hello? If someone doesn't start talking right this second – Huh? Oh, Adrian! That's not a very nice greeting."
Eyes darkening, the Librarian began pacing the room, with the phone pressed tight to his head.
"Well next time, don't direct language like that at the other end of the line. It generally improves your chances of getting a polite response. Now what the hell do you want? I'm assuming you didn't just call us up for a nice friendly game of TF2?"
"Nah. Not exactly TF2. Though that IS a fun game...maybe I can use that later...Anyway!" It was easy to tell that Passion got distracted by the shiny, even verbally. "I need to borrow five of your agents for one thing, and another five for another."
"...excuse me?" Adrian's ears flicked. "You want to...borrow...ten of our agents?"
"...well...maybe not borrow," Passion amended. "Borrow implies that I intend to give them back. I suppose I could send the bodies back, but I don't think I should since you didn't give us the courtesy with Wisdom-"
"Wait wait wait," Adrian shook his head. "Back up. Why do you want ten of our agents, and why the hell should I even consider agreeing?"
You could hear the grin Passion had over the phone. "Because I've already got five Sues on the ground in the Hunger Games arena, and five Sovereigns as their mentors. And, well, if you don't come...Goodbye plot cohesion for that fandom."
There was a pause. "You more willing to listen now?"
Adrian's eyes narrowed and he winced as Harriet gave him an impatient tap on the head with her cricket bat. He knew what she wanted. In matters concerning Society agents, she was Top Dog (with Tash proudly bearing the Chief Bitch title), and she would need to be part of this conversation. He pressed the speaker button, filling the monitor room with the hum of the phone line.
"We're listening," he promised.
Passion heard the beep as it went to speaker phone. "Oooooh. Now everyone can hear me! Good stuff. Now, to update everyone else as to what's going on. I've got five Sues in the arena of the Hunger Games, and five Sovereigns as their mentors. You have to send in five agents for the arena, and five for their mentors, or the Hunger Games aren't going to be games anymore. By the way, the five agents in the arena can't be leaders. That'd be a bit of an unfair advantage, methinks."
Emily, still curled up in her seat with her mug of tea, could see the anxiety crossing the faces of the three leaders and the Librarian.
"What about mentors?" Tash thought to ask. "They can't be tributes, but they can be mentors, right? It's only fair since you've got Sovereigns."
"Yeah, that's fine. They won't be in combat." Another pause. "In fact, it might be fun if a couple mentors were leaders. You'd only be able to watch as your agents are painfully ripped to shreds."
Harriet rolled her eyes and asked sarcastically. "Would you like us to choose now, or do we have time to ask for volunteers?" It was pretty clear that there were an exceptionally creative range of insults running through her head on the end of that sentence.
"Yeah, and while I think about it," Michael asked. "Did these Sue tributes of yours actually volunteer, or did you just pick any old helpless person off the streets?"
Passion chuckled. "A couple volunteered. One was a low level Sue that I found here...the other two...are dealing with it. You might recognize one of them."
"Oh wonderful," Tash muttered dryly.
"And you still haven't answered me yet," Harriet put in, a little irate at being left out.
"Huh. Hmm..." Passion made an exaggerated show of thinking about it. "You've got three minutes to ask for volunteers."
Tash barked something that was grossly offensive to Passion's gender, before hitting the intercom. "All agents, report to the monitor room immediately! Or I'll make you all clean the young adult dark fantasy section for a month!"
It was almost possible to hear the sudden thunder of many feet hitting the floor and racing in alarm towards the room. It was maybe thirty seconds before the whole Society was crammed into the monitor room, a few craning their heads over the crowd to see. 'What's going on?' was the main sentiment.
Harriet, direct and to the point, stood on the desk so that everyone could see her. "We need five volunteers to be tributes in the Hunger Games. For those of you who are unaware, the Hunger Games is a fight to the death. I'd rather have people who have seen the movie, or better yet, read the books. And we need to choose now."
There was no time to waste - to emphasise how dangerous this was, or to properly explain why this was necessary. This was the moment that showed just which Society agents fully trusted the leaders and their judgement.
The first two hands up were Lily and Rhia, followed closely by Avak and Cristoph. Ben put his hand up soon after.
"You sure?" Harriet asked. All five of them nodded. "How many of you know the fandom? Know what you're getting into?"
"I've read the first book twice. It won't be a surprise." Rhia replied, stepping through the crowd.
Avak piped up. "I've read the whole series."
"Seen the movie. Wasn't too bad, for an adaptation." Ben said, with Lily nodding shortly after.
Harriet looked at Cristoph, expecting him to say something to the same effect. He simply shrugged.
"Tick tock, tick tock..." Passion taunted from the speaker phone. "Hurry up! I can feel myself aging here!"
Several people gasped at the appearance of the Sovereign's voice, some even going so far as to draw their weapons. Deciding that the ninja would be able to fend for himself just fine, Harriet turned to the phone. "Fine, we have our tributes. Just let us pick our mentors." She had a thought, and turned to the five agents who had volunteered. "You guys choose who you want your mentors to be. It's only fair since they'll be doing their best to save your behinds. Pick people you trust."
"But don't pick the Librarian," Passion chirruped from the phone. "Kitty boy stays at home. Boss' orders. He's been a bad boy, and has to stay in his room-"
"SHUT UP!" to everyone's surprise, it was not Tash or Adrian who yelled, but Emily, slamming the receiver on the desktop a few times for good measure. Passion howled in pain down the other end.
A moment passed, and the Sovereign finally growled out, "Hurry up."
Ben, surprisingly, picked his mentor first, giving Jared a quick nod. Rhia tapped Tash on the shoulder. Avak gave Valerie a hopeful look, to which she nodded. Lily and Harriet met each other in the middle, surprising themselves. Cristoph stepped up to Michael and bowed slightly. "Lord Michael, would you do me-"
Michael waved him off. "Yeah, yeah, no problem."
"Done," Harriet announced.
"That was...easy..." Passion sounded a little put out. "Boring actually...hope you're more entertaining in the Games."
"Is there anything else we need to know about?" Harriet broke in to the nutcase's ramblings. "Or do I have time to get another cup of tea and use the bathroom before we set out?"
"No tea for you, Harriet! It's time to play the games!" Passion's voice turned teasing. "And may the odds be ever in your favour!"
"Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!" was Michael's parting response before the line went dead.
For a long time, the monitor room was quiet. Nobody wanted to look the tributes in the eye.
"You guys sure about this?" Harriet asked quietly.
"Bit late to change our minds now, isn't it?" Ben pointed out. "At least we can prepare before going in."
The phone rang again, and Emily reached the speaker button first, not bothering to give a proper introduction.
"Yes. Hello. What?"
"One last thing!" Passion said. "Leave all your weapons and gadgets behind. You'll find stuff in the arena. Ciao!"
There was a long silence broken only by the dial tone, before Cristoph broke it in a waspish tone.
"You had to open your big mouth, didn't you Ben?"
Rhia was not quite sure what she expected when she leaped out of the plothole. The sprawling Capitol, or one of the run-down looking districts. Maybe the arena itself that for so many years had been a death trap waiting to ensnare the unfortunately young people of Panem selected as tributes.
She certainly did not expect to fall face first into a solid wall. Prising herself off it, she rubbed her nose and tried to get her bearings.
It was not a wall she had fallen into, but very thick glass, which curved all the way around her into a tube. The room beyond was dark, and Rhia guessed that nobody else was supposed to be here. The tube was barely wide enough for her to stand in, and her chest felt tight as she realised just how trapped she was.
As soon as she thought this, a small holographic display popped into life in the side of the tube. Yelping in alarm, Rhia backed away into the glass as Passion peered out, his face frighteningly close to the camera.
"-it on? Yeah it's on Creation!...because I can see the red light blinking! Oh you're a woman. You don't know technology! Go sit down!" he cleared his throat. "Hello tributes! Hope you're all comfortable!"
He only bounced like that when he had something bad planned, Rhia thought to herself, and she gulped. 'Comfortable' was not a word she would use to describe herself.
"For those of you unfamiliar with how the Hunger Games work, allow me to give you a rundown before we begin," Passion said gleefully. "You're all currently waiting in the launch tubes. After I'm done here, the platform will rise up to an area of the arena called the Cornucopia. Then we begin the countdown. Anyone who steps off their platform before the countdown ends will be blown sky high!"
He sounded entirely too cheerful about that.
"Around the Cornucopia you will see a lot of bags – I'm a generous Game Master after all!" he bounced. "These bags will be full of supplies that will help you during the games, but gathering them is a risk, because as most of you know, the purpose of the Hunger Games is to be the last one standing, which means you've got to kill off everyone else in the arena in order to win!"
There was a long pause as he let that sink in, and Rhia wondered what Passion would do if the arena was left with just the five Society agents.
"If I get bored," Passion continued. "I may set off traps just for fun, so keep your eyes peeled. Each time a tribute dies, you will hear a cannon go off, and at midnight each night, there will be a slideshow in the sky of everyone who has died...Oh and if your mentors feel it necessary, they will drop supplies or helpful items down for you to use." He looked thoughtful for a moment, before shrugging. "I'm getting bored now, and I think that's all the important stuff, so let's get this show on the road!"
The screen in the side of the tube vanished, along with Passion's excited face, and the platform beneath Rhia's feet began to rise. She felt the unnerving jolt as it jerked upwards, pressing her hands against the sides to stop her from stumbling as it ascended smoothly. Sunlight streamed in above her head, and she shielded her eyes as the platform finally shuddered to a stop.
"Ladies and Gentlemen!" Passion's obnoxious voice rang loudly through her ears. "Let the Hunger Games begin!"
She opened her eyes and gasped as the arena came in to focus.
She was standing in a field. A glittering golden cone lay on its side in the middle of the long grass, with bags and rucksacks piled high in the centre, some dotted here and there between it and the platforms. The larger bags were stacked right in the middle, and Rhia remembered this part of the books. The good stuff was in the middle of the Cornucopia, and most of the tributes died in the first fifteen minutes killing each other for the best supplies.
Speaking of the other tributes, she tore her gaze away from the sparkling golden Cornucopia to the platforms around her. They had been arranged in an alternating pattern – Sue, Agent, Sue, Agent – at set distances in a circle around the Cornucopia. Immediately on her right was a Stu, with pale skin that glittered and shone like diamonds under the sunlight. Rhia pulled a face. She recognised a Twilight Stu from miles away.
On the platform next to him, she was relieved to see Avak, whose head was nervously darting here and there as he tried to take stock of the situation. And beyond him – Rhia felt her entire body go numb as she caught sight of the face that had haunted her nightmares for so long. It figured that Passion would pick her up – she would be ideal for games that specialised in murder.
Roxelana appeared completely unfazed by her current situation. She wasn't studying the Cornucopia for good supplies, or checking out her competition. She stood perfectly still, with her hands clasped behind her back, staring up at the sky. For some reason, the image of her so casual and carefree chilled Rhia far more than seeing her armed to the teeth would have.
Tearing her eyes away once more, she swung her head around to look to her left. On the platform next to her was a young Sue with dark skin, short brown hair and narrow brown eyes who she did not know. She was crouched on her platform like a sprinter, ready to dive straight into the fray. Rhia knew she would be one to look out for. Next to her, she saw Ben, jaw clenched in determination as he studied the Cornucopia. He must have felt her watching him, as he turned his head to his right, caught sight of her, and offered a reassuring grin.
The platform next to him was obscured by the tail end of the Cornucopia. Rhia could not see Cristoph, Lily or the last two Sues, but she knew they had to be there. Passion might have gone a little off the rails, but she was sure he would want a fair game of five on five. But then, what kind of game had he planned? Rhia knew the horrors that awaited tributes in canon Hunger Games. What would be the outcome of a Hunger Games being run by a Sovereign?
Rhia felt her heart leap. The countdown had fallen to its last leg, and she had not even begun to plan a strategy!
Desperately she scanned the Cornucopia for any sign of a weapon that she was familiar with. A knife or a blade of some kind...
There had to be something. She couldn't walk into this unprepared.
But did she even want to go for a bag? Should she risk the inevitable bloodbath of the Cornucopia, or just cut and run straight for the forest?
Surely the safer option was to avoid the Cornucopia all together?
But she wasn't an outdoorswoman.
She wouldn't last twenty four hours without supplies.
The Sue and Stu beside her were tense and ready to run.
What would she do?
Her breath caught in her throat, and a shudder went through her body as the gong rang clearly through the arena.
And everyone leaped from their platforms.
Only months of watching him let Rhia see what happened. No sooner had the first foot touched the grass, when a black blur shot into the Cornucopia, seized the largest bag in the centre, and shot off towards the trees like a black shadow. Cristoph had palmed the best supplies for the Society, and had already escaped into the forest. He would watch now, Rhia knew for certain. He would watch the other Agents, make note of which way they went, and then track them down. And she would be first.
The warm sense of safety and security coursed through her veins, and her legs propelled her towards the Cornucopia. She did not stop to locate the other Agents, but in the corner of her eye, she saw the brown haired Sue who had been standing next to her, shoot past her at inhuman speed. She was into the Cornucopia, grabbing two rucksacks, and bolting towards the trees. Had she not been pumped full of adrenalin, Rhia would have stood there gobsmacked. As it was, she almost tripped over a rucksack as she breached the golden sanctuary of the Cornucopia mouth.
Immediately she seized a rucksack and felt a handle in the top. Not pausing to think, she yanked on it and a short throwing knife appeared in her grasp. She shouldered the bag and darted out the other side of the Cornucopia. Racing past her was another Sue with black hair. She had a small rucksack already on her back, but she did not stop to breach the Cornucopia properly, instead making an about face and sprinting for the forest.
Across the arena, somebody screamed, and a maniacal giggle signalled that Roxelana had finally moved from her plate and chosen her first target. She had pinned the struggling brown haired Sue down and stamped hard on her elbow. There was a sickening crack, and everyone who saw knew immediately that this would not be a quick death – that this was a Sue who would enjoy playing with her food before she ate it. As the Sue threw back her head and screamed Rhia went pale. She knew that face from the Society database. It was Sparrow Castella, the woman who had presented Sue Factor.
Expertly palming her knife, she hurled it at Roxelana. She missed by a hair, but it was enough to make the Sue flatten herself to the ground. Spying Rhia through the grass, Roxelana smirked widely and licked her lips. In that instant, Rhia realise what she had done, as the Sue reached for the fallen knife, and stabbed it deep into Sparrow's shoulder. She began to twitch and convulse violently in a pool of bloodstained grass.
Rhia went cold. In one bold desperate move, she had handed Roxelana a weapon to kill a Sue with. And now, as she rose with blood still dripping fresh from the blade, she knew she was coming for her.
The knife whistled through the air, but a dark shape blurred in front of Rhia, and the knife slammed with a clang into something hard. For a wild moment, Rhia thought that the blur was Cristoph. But it was far too big and bulky to be him. Then her eyes adjusted and she saw it was Ben. He looked utterly ridiculous, with no less than seven backpacks of varying shapes and sizes swinging wildly from his back, front and arms. Rather than brave the Cornucopia, he appeared to have skirted around the edges and seized the smaller packs, and they now formed a tight protective shield that had been tough enough to deflect the knife from hitting her.
"Come on!" he seized her arm and dragged them both for the forest. Rhia did not stop to look if they were being followed. She heard another weak scream from Sparrow, and she knew that Roxelana had stayed to finish her off.
Branches and leaves whipped past their faces as they ran through the trees. Ben was stumbling and whacking into trunks with his many rucksacks, and Rhia knew her legs were shaking as the adrenalin slowly ran out and took in the full horror of the situation. Shoulder charging a large branch out of the way, they tumbled down a slope covered in thick moulding bark and pine needles. Mud and rotten leaves stuck to their clothes, and rubbed the woodsy smell all over them.
They continued to run. Rhia knew that nowhere was safe anymore. Passion's deadliest games had begun.
The first rule of the Jenny School of Good Kidnapping, was to make sure that the kidnappers regretted laying a hand on you. And the most recommended way of achieving this was to irritate said kidnappers to hell and back.
If you were kidnapped by Lord Voldemort, you addressed him as "The Man Who Let The Boy Live" and bewitched his Death Eaters to dance the Macarena.
If you were kidnapped by Emperor Palpatine, you gave him a big friendly hug and spent your time in captivity recommending skincare products to him.
If you were kidnapped by Merle, you made wet dog jokes, and constantly ordered the other werewolves to 'heel' in your most commanding voice.
If you were kidnapped by Runoa, you hummed Never Gonna Give You Up constantly and you always always ALWAYS smiled serenely as she explained her complicated plans of world domination, before countering innocently with the argument "...wouldn't you be better to just walk up to Adrian and axe him in the back?"
And above all, you certainly NEVER acted afraid of them in the least – after all, that would be like letting them win!
This was the school of thought that had kept many an agent or writer from falling into despair at the thought of being in the hands of their enemies. It also enabled them to keep most of their sanity (what was left of it).
Though they had not been kidnapped, this was the rule that Harriet and Tash were currently embracing in the Control room of the Hunger Games.
"WHERE THE HELL IS OUR TEA?"
"Oh God, it's happening again!" Valerie wailed, as the rest of the Society ducked under the huge round holographic display table for cover.
The rest of the Sovereigns dove under the table for safety. Harriet hefted her cricket bat, and advanced on the Game Master.
"Where is the tea, Passion?"
Even the gamer Sovereign, who was most certainly a few screws loose, seemed to realise that he was in immediate danger, and backed away hastily into the wall.
"I didn't bring any, you crazy women!"
"Okay. Your loss."
"No not the Red Bull!"
"Give us our tea, Passion!" Tash growled, with a crazed look in her eyes. "Give it to us or we're going to die!"
"For the love of God, someone boil the kettle!" Michael begged fearfully. Crouched under the other side of the large table, Creation's hand was flying over her sketchbook.
"I'm on it! I'm on it!"
She was not a second too late, as a tea stand materialised next to the two rabid British women. Seeing the two steaming tea pots and the fine china, a sense of calm immediately radiated from both of them, and they began the complicated process of straining, pouring and adding the extras.
Only when they had both settled into their seats with relaxed looks on their faces, did the rest of the occupants of the room peer out carefully from under the table.
"...is it safe?" Jared finally asked.
"I think so..." Life confirmed, slipping out from under the table and taking the chair furthest away from the crazy British people. Resolve, Order and Purity tried to affect looks of dignity as they retook their seats, but Creation pushed herself as far away as she could in case the leaders decided to turn the table over once more.
"Ah, that hit the spot," Harriet smiled, all traces of homicide gone from her face. "Right, where are we?"
"The Hunger Games control room," Valerie filled in.
"Huh...don't recall this being in the book, d'you Tashy?" Harriet asked. Her partner in crime shook her head.
"Well of course you don't," Resolve sneered. "The Hunger Games are told in first person. You only see what Katniss sees in the books, and she never gets to see where the mentors hang out during the Games. If we want to drop in gifts for our tributes, we plothole them in from here. This is also where the Gamemakers set off their traps from."
Passion preened from his position as Head Gamemaker, jumping onto the holographic display table and causing several large blurs to appear on the map where his feet stepped.
"And we're off people! And what a start it is!" He poked the Cornucopia with his foot where the body of Sparrow still lay. Unlike the regular Hunger Games, Passion could not be bothered to collect the bodies. After all, there were no relatives here to want them back.
"I love this Roxelana chick!" he continued. "One minute in and BOOM! She's stabbed a Sue! She gets it. She knows the rules! She knows the score!"
"She's fucking nuts!" Michael burst out.
"I'll be the judge of that!" Passion said firmly, prancing up and down the table proudly.
"Then you're fucking nuts," Michael concluded.
Passion aimed a kick at his head, but before it could connect something hard collided with the side of his head. Clasping the injury, the Sovereign stumbled at the edge of the table, before overbalancing and tumbling with a yelp onto the floor. His head struck the floor hard, and he lay there dazed and moaning softly.
"There," Harriet smiled, with her arm still outstretched. "That should give us at least half an hour or so of peace."
"Harriet!" Tash admonished. "That was a Wedgwood teacup!"
"Eurgh... Passion groaned softly, before brightening into a dazed smile as he pawed at the air above his head. "Ooh hello little birdies..."
"Okay..." Ben flopped to the ground dramatically. He regretted it as he landed awkwardly on his coat of many rucksacks. "If I run another step, I'm going to fall apart."
Considering Rhia specialised in parkour, and Ben spent most of his life running away from mushroom clouds (ninety nine percent of the time caused by him) they had covered excellent ground since fleeing the Cornucopia. But against Sues with God-like powers, that was not saying very much. None the less, Rhia's legs were burning from their cross-country sprint, and she too collapsed against the nearest tree to catch her breath.
"Thanks for the save back there." Rhia gestured loosely in the direction they came from. "Don't know why I froze."
Ben waved a floppy arm, dismissing it. "No problem. I didn't want to dash off into the forest by myself, anyway. Safety in numbers."
"Heh, yeah." She chuffed a small laugh. "Do you want help with those backpacks? You look…ah, stuck."
"Yes, in particular, could you free the one around my waist? It's gone painfully southward..."
Smirking for the first time since entering the arena, Rhia began to unclip and slide the rucksacks off her stricken comrade, and slowly, bits of Ben started to reappear among the black canvases. At Ben's suggestion, they emptied all the bags to take stock of their supplies, and began to condense them into the two largest backpacks.
It was as they were wrapping up the last of the food that a twig above their heads snapped. Rhia was on her feet instantly, the bloodied dagger (which had been extracted from Ben's rucksacks with difficulty) ready to hurl into their attacker.
"It's me! It's me!" Never had either of them heard Cristoph sound so alarmed – but then, he wasn't usually on the receiving end of Rhia's knives.
The sound of Cristoph's voice made Rhia drop her knife, and it thudded to the leafy ground unnoticed as she tackle-glomped Cristoph in a hug. She kissed him once on the cheek, grinning widely.
"I was wondering where you were." Rhia tapped his nose as Cristoph returned her smile.
"Yes well, I had to hunt you two down. It was easy enough. The rampaging bag monster left a trail a mile wide to follow."
Surprisingly, Ben was not offended. He just gave Cristoph a look of complete smugness.
"Yeah yeah, be superior, but I, the rampaging bag monster, came away from that Cornucopia with seven," he waved his hands at his spoils just in case there was any confusion. "Bags, which is more than I'll wager anyone else did."
Rhia facepalmed - their squabbling was not what she wanted to deal with now. To her irritation, Cristoph just smirked even wider than Ben, and spun on his heel to reveal the enormous rucksack that he had palmed from the dead centre of the Cornucopia. One look said that it was bursting with supplies.
"It's not the quantity; it's the quality, Ben."
A twitch developed in Ben's eye, and Rhia heaved a sigh. "If this turns into a Mines Bigger Than Yours Contest, I'm so out of here..." she declared, "I'll hunt down Lily and leave you two, the old married couple, to snipe your way through the game. I don't want to listen to it."
She huffed, and gave them both her best glare. The two men quavered under the look before crumbling like wet sand. They both nodded like recalcitrant schoolboys.
"Right, Ben, since you seem to have a knack for Tardising stuff into these bags, you finish packing this lot up, and find somewhere small and inconspicuous to hide the empty bags. Cristoph," she turned to her boyfriend. "Which way did the other two go?"
Cristoph pointed to a distant mountain. "Lord Avak ran north after grabbing a single bag. Lady Lily," he turned and pointed another way. "Due west. I would suggest to avoid the Cornucopia, we skirt north around it, find Lord Avak first, and then head west to find Lady Lily."
"Sounds like a plan," Rhia agreed. "We need to find water as well. We've got canteens, but nothing in them."
"So keep an eye out for anything wet. Got it," Ben saluted, before smirking. Rhia just knew a naughty thought had popped into his head. She groaned.
"This is going to be a long trip," she lamented.
She shrugged one pack over her shoulders and waited for the other two to be ready. "Let's go."
As they walked, Rhia had time to reflect on just where they were. The forest consisted of huge trees, with pine being the most dominant. The ground was a carpet of needles, which wafted their enticing woodsy smell up to greet them. Rhia had to admit, if they weren't in a life or death situation, it would have been very pretty.
From a game perspective, they were well prepared. Between the rucksacks Ben had palmed, and the one Rhia had taken they had four sleeping bags, three fire starting kits, three flasks, two first aid kits, four knives of varying lengths, rope, water sterilising tablets and a torch along with enough food to last at least three days without touching what the forest had to offer.
But Cristoph's rucksack was not the biggest for nothing. Aside from more survival items, there were also enough knives to make him very happy (and make his clothes sparkle in the right light) and an axe, which was dubiously given to Ben.
"Is Passion spoiling us, or is it just me?" Ben asked, twirling his new toy around happily. Behind him, Cristoph looked as though he thoroughly regretted giving the weapon away, and he winced every time Ben accidentally hacked off an innocent tree branch.
"I think it's just you. I bet he doubted we would've gotten to the centre." Rhia shrugged, slipping a couple knives from Cristoph's pack up her sleeves.
Cristoph winced again. "Ben, could you not do that?"
"Aw. Is the ninja afraid of the big bad axe?"
Said ninja growled. "As if. I simply wished for you to stop ruining the blade."
Ben grinned. "Yeap. Afraid."
Cristoph almost let out a snarl and leapt, hands outstretched, ready to strangle Ben where he stood, only to jerk to a stop with Rhia's hand fisted in his shirt.
"Alright I've had enough!" Rhia shoved her homicidal boyfriend backwards and stamped her foot hard. "We are all on the same team! So you both behave or I'll...I'll..."
Cristoph raised an eyebrow at her flustered exclamations, and Ben waved an encouraging hand. "Yeeees?"
"I'll...spank you!" Rhia finally managed to splutter out in frustration, her face turning cherry red as she realised just what she had said.
Cristoph turned a similar shade, while Ben just smirked.
"I might like that," he shrugged. He received a rucksack in the face for that comment. "Ow...okay, I get it."
Still growling under her breath, Rhia pulled out the longest knife in their arsenal (though the trees were so widely spaced that she rarely had to use it) and took the lead. The two men wisely stayed back.
They walked for hours, in a strange silence, before Cristoph suddenly charged forwards and examined a seemingly random spot on the ground.
"Lord Avak was here," he reported, indicating a barely discernable patch where the bed of pine needles on the floor had been disturbed. "Large space. I would guess that he stopped here to catch his breath after fleeing the Cornucopia..." he glanced up, with the mountain looming ahead of them. "That way."
Rhia groaned softly, eyeing the mountain. "Well there goes our cover..."
The mountain stood ominously ahead of them, tall with jagged gashes of earth that seemed more like scars than natural formations. Very few trees got further than half way up its side, where it became a desolate lump of ash-coloured rock.
"Can we take a break first?" Ben asked, fidgeting. "I've gotta use the little boys tree."
Rhia wrinkled her nose. "Yeah, thanks for sharing." She took the chance to fish out the canteen from the side of her rucksack. "Suppose I may as well check for water before we go trying to climb that thing."
Rhia motioned back the way they came. "Cristoph, make sure nothing comes up on us from behind?" She gave him a small smile. "I'll be back soon."
The ninja nodded and practically vanished into the branches of the trees. She watched his black-clad form melt into the leaves and mentally groaned at the thought that she had that all to herself.
"Gah! Get a grip. Go find water." She facepalmed and headed off, eyes glued to the ground.
As she was not a particularly experienced tracker, Rhia tried to scrape together everything she had read in books, seen in movies or come across in fanfiction. Eventually she decided that looking for animals or birds would be a good start in her hunt for water, so she stood still a moment and listened. She could hear birds, but they were very faint. The mountain also seemed like a good location, as she faintly recalled from her geography classes from yesteryear learning that rivers usually began in mountains or hills.
Scanning the tree tops, she peered for birds, trying to tell if they were prevalent in that direction, when the air was pierced by a shriek.
She started. That was definitely NOT a bird.
Rhia pulled her knife again from where she had stowed it in her boot, held it in a reverse grip, and started trotting for the scream. It was loud, so it was either really big, really close, or both.
The scream sounded again as she turned a corner. Rhia found herself on a quiet footpath up the mountain. She looked up, and saw a figure running for his life, right towards her. She 'eeeped' herself, dove behind a rock, and decided to wait to see who it was.
The good news, she realised very quickly, was that the figure was Avak. He wore a medium sized backpack, and was sweating heavily, but otherwise he seemed okay.
The bad news was that he was not alone.
A Sue, Rhia could have handled. But a full grown mountain lion was something else entirely. Self preservation instincts told her to stay quiet and let it follow Avak. But loyalty compelled her to her feet and caused her to yell. "AVAK! OVER HERE!"
She'd never seen so much blind relief on Avak's face - not even the first time he'd encountered Yaoi and had had to be rescued by Valerie. He was relieved, but she wasn't. He banked hard into his run, and pulled a ninety-degree turn straight for her. The mountain lion followed him.
Rhia swallowed. "Oh, shit." The knife in her hand and the few other knives on her body all of a sudden felt very inadequate.
Avak reached her and dove behind the rock she was sheltering by. The mountain lion kept coming. She could already hear its paws pounding the ground. Or was that her heart pounding in her ears?
The big cat was ten feet away. Avak was cowering at her feet. Rhia forgot all her combat training, all her self-preservation instincts, took the deepest breath she could into her lungs, and roared at the mountain lion.
The mountain lion was so damned surprised it stopped in its tracks.
Still growling as best she could, Rhia squeezed her knife tightly, channelling all the shaking her body wanted to do into the blade, instead of her limbs. Eyes narrowed, she glared as fiercely at the feline as she could, never breaking eye contact. She did not notice her hair beginning to stand on end.
The giant cat gave an angry hiss, but Rhia cut it off with another yowl, this one more final and firm than the first one. Behind her, Avak clung to her legs, shaking like a leaf.
The lion hissed again, but this time it was more of a sulky noise, and is slunk off with its belly close to the ground, its ears flat and its tail hanging low. Padding quickly, it slipped off into the undergrowth.
Rhia took a deep breath, and felt her hair flatten back down to her shoulders.
Avak stared at her, uncurling slightly from his cower and his jaw nearly on the ground. "Whoa."
Rhia blinked and rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. "Uhm..." She slipped the knife back into her boot and shook her arms to get them to stop shaking. "Meow?"
"How?" Avak was still amazed.
She gave him a flat look. "I live with more cats than most people will own in their lives. That was just a bigger cat." She sighed and reached down to help him up. "C'mon. I've met up with Cristoph and Ben. Let's go."
"Hoooooly shit!" Passion's eyes were wide. He had recovered from his bumps on the head, and a thick bandage with a cold compress was strapped to his skull.
"Language," Purity said automatically. Passion stuck his tongue out at him.
"What are you, my mother?"
Tash was just as surprised, but she recovered the quickest. "You know, I really shouldn't be surprised by that. I lived with her for two weeks. She almost speaks cat."
"I'm bored now," Life called from down the table. "Can we look at the Sue's please, and take a break from the freak show?"
Michael scoffed. "Says the lady with florescent orange hair and a bondage fetish."
"Now now Michael, bondage is fun," Tash smiled, patting her brother on the wrist, while several people spat out their drinks in surprise. She relished that reaction.
Harriet simply blinked, completely unruffled. "Oh come now, if you can't take the idea of bondage, why ever are you called 'Sovereigns'?" She took a sip of tea to hide her grin.
"I cannot believe that I am stuck in here with so much idiocy..." Order muttered to himself, tapping the holographic display on the table and zooming on Roxelana, who was weaving through a field of long grass, humming absently to herself. "And I cannot believe that I am stuck with this...creature, as my tribute!"
He was whacked around the head by an irritated Passion.
"I am the Game Master! You will have the tribute I assign you, and you will like it!" he bellowed in Order's ear. The five Society agents tensed as they saw Order's fist clench in anger, but Purity rested a hand on his arm, and he seemed to calm somewhat.
Harriet spared a cautious glance down the table, particularly to her fellow leaders. Something had shifted - something was off with the Sovereigns. For some reason, in this instance, even Order was deferring to Passion. But why?
Both Michael and Tash swallowed hard and looked away, and what followed was a silent conversation using their eyes and a few head motions. Tash eventually shook her head at the end, as if to say, 'Not here, not now.'
"I need to go to the bathroom!" Michael announced loudly.
"Me too!" Harriet waved a hand.
"Again?" Passion was incredulous.
"I kinda need it too..." Creation muttered, raising her hand like a child in school.
"And I'd like to request a weapon drop," Jared asked.
"And I'd like to request everyone shut up and look at the screen!" Resolve barked.
"Who put you in charge?" Order scoffed.
"Shut up!" Passion stamped his foot hard. "Creation, draw a larger bathroom, and all of you stop drinking so much tea!" he pointed at Jared. "For the last time, you may NOT drop Ben a nuke! I don't care if it'll 'make things more interesting'! I'm not bored enough yet!" he turned to Resolve. "Resolve, it's a mountain! Stop making puppy eyes at its wonderful endurance! And Order...just...go jump in front of a bus!" he finally spluttered.
Obediently, everyone did as instructed. The only exceptions were Order, who stayed in his seat, sulking, and Tash, who began to brew another pot of tea automatically to ease the stress.
"Fastest pee in history," Michael muttered as he sat back down again.
"Dude, too much info," Jared told him, still grumpy that he did not get to drop Ben a nuke, and had to settle instead for dropping him a bottle of Firebrand Whiskey. As a switch clicked from the pink kettle indicated that it had finished boiling, Tash began to pour out the steaming hot water into mugs.
"Where are they now?"
"Heading west to find Lily," Valerie said, enlarging the section of the holographic table where the group were trekking through the forest. "Still no water. Lily's found some though by the looks of it."
"Oooh she's found the lake?" Harriet asked, hurrying back to the table, and enlarging another section of the map. Lily appeared on screen, a small canteen in hand, dipping it slowly into the water.
"Can we find one of the Sues please?" Life requested again.
"Oh for God's sake!" Purity muttered under his breath. "Just because your tribute is dead, doesn't mean we have to watch what you want to watch!"
"Well said," Order agreed.
"Fine, here!" Jared said grumpily, leaning over the table and hitting another part of the map. "There is the Twipire, heading up the mountain. Hopefully he'll misstep and fall off." He banged another section, and behind him, Valerie began organising a flask of soothing tea (camomile with a drop of sedative) for Avak, to calm him after his ordeal with the lion.
"There is Roxelana, as we've just seen," Jared continued, pointing to the Sue, heading south west across the map. "Completely cuckoo and she's been singing since she left the arena. There's Marama, just about to reach the edge of the arena." The camera froze over the brown haired woman darting from behind trees like a bolt of lightning.
"There's Eden, the Sue that Passion plucked out of this very fandom before starting the games." The Sue had black hair, and had only seized a single bag before fleeing the Cornucopia. In true Sueish fashion though, it had everything she would need to survive alongside her own skills. "And just in case you're confused," he added, tapping the centre of the map. "There's your Sue. Sparrow. A mutilated mess on the grass courtesy of Roxelana. Happy now?"
Life glared at him, and Jared sat back down in his seat.
"And now that the audience are up to speed," Tash quipped. "I'd like to request a weapon drop."
"For who?" Passion said irritably. In answer, Tash fished around in her bag, and pulled out the heavy gleaming metal. Passion's eyes widened in understanding and he shook his head firmly.
"Uh no," Passion said bluntly. "I was in Invader Zim. I saw what she can do with that frying pan!"
Sighing heavily, Tash put the kitchen instrument on the table, and rummaged in the pocket of her waistcoat. "I know you saw it. But luckily for Rhia I'm a WARG, and I always come to games prepared to bribe the GM if necessary."
Passion scoffed. "There is nothing you have that I could possibly-" His eyes went wide as Tash finally pulled her hand out of her pocket, and he threw himself across the table to get a better view. "HOLY SHIT, IS THAT REAL?"
The object in question was a beautiful sapphire in the shape of a twenty sided dice. The numbers gleamed from the faces, and Passion let out a small whimper as it caught the light.
"Yes, yes it is," Tash nodded. "Ah ah ah!" she pressed a hand in Passion's face to halt his frantic lunge, sweeping the hand with the dice behind her back. "You don't get it that easily! Not unless you let me send that weapon down for Rhia! I'd say it's a fair trade."
Passion gave a desperate whine, the kind that was usually heard coming from dogs begging for a bone. His reluctance to add such a game-breaking advantage to the Society warred with his inner gamer's desire to possess something so nerdy and sparkly. Backing away to a safe distance, Tash pulled out the sapphire again and rolled it between her fingers. There was a soft moan, and she knew she had him.
"Awwww alright! Send her the damn weapon, just give me the precious!"
Reaching for the frying pan and the parachute with one hand, Tash tossed him the sapphire with the other. He snagged it out of thin air and began rubbing it against his cheek. With no resistance, Tash hastily tied the frying pan to the parachute and sent it through a plothole.
"How...perplexing," Purity muttered.
"Utterly preposterous!" Order sneered.
"SILENCE! DO NOT INSULT THE PRECIOUS!" Passion's rage filled him for a moment, before the flames of anger died down and he went back to nuzzling the die.
The sun was starting its westward descent in the sky and the four agents were quietly following it, their ears catching on every cracked branch, thinking it was an enemy. The tall looming trees of the forest were slowly thinning out as they headed across the arena, ever taunting the four hapless human beings that there may yet be something interesting (and preferably non lethal) on the other side of it.
"My feet hurt..." Avak muttered.
Rhia winced. Her own ankles were beginning to swell inside her hiking boots, and they would need to stop for rest before too long. Good at parkour as she was, this was long distance, nonstop hiking over rough terrain, and not exactly the walk in the park for any of them. Even the silent and deadly Cristoph was starting to drag his feet.
Rhia grit her teeth and forcibly ignored the growing pain in her ankles, telling herself she would keep trudging on no matter what.
The trees continued to thin around them, revealing grass beneath their feet instead of pine needles, and it was Ben who broke their silence. "Whoa." He stopped in his tracks, jaw dropped and the other three looked up from their feet to stare.
Old, almost post-apocalyptic buildings rose from the ground to reach for the sky with rusting I-beams and shattered glass. The forest surrounded the destroyed city in a claustrophobic circle, almost as if they were eager to retake what had once been forest itself and it was almost in their grasp. The wind whistled through broken buildings and gaping doors, a city-wide piano organ of ghosts gone by.
Avak whistled, his gaze panning upwards towards the closest and tallest building. "What d'you think happened here?"
"Passion probably happened," Rhia shrugged. Ben meanwhile, was examining his index finger, a look of excitement growing across his face. Cristoph recognised it immediately.
"Don't even think about it," the ninja warned. Ben blinked at him in bemusement.
"I didn't say anything!"
"You were thinking it," Cristoph accused. "Just because its empty, doesn't mean you can blow it up!"
Folding his arms, Ben huffed. "Fun sucker..."
Rhia walked up and patted Ben on the shoulder. "You can blow it up later as a distraction. When we're far, far away."
Ben grinned, and they could easily see the gears turning in his mind.
Cristoph gave her a small frown and she shrugged, readjusting the pack on her shoulder. "It might."
He made a face. "As you wish."
Avak stared hard at one of the taller skyscrapers. "T-that might m-make a good l-lookout."
"Huh. Yeah. It'd be easier on that than down here...And I for one need at least a small break. My ankles are killing me." She shook out a foot, as if she could shake the pain out of her shoe. "Anyone have any complaints?"
There was a general headshake, and everyone flopped to the ground, save Cristoph, who began scaling the nearest tree, perching on the top most branch, his head turning this way and that like a black owl surveying the surroundings.
"We're going to need water pretty soon," Ben pointed out. "I'm parched."
"Me too," Avak muttered. "I haven't seen any ponds or streams or anything, have you?"
Rhia shook her head. "Still...if we've got the buildings as lookouts, we can probably find some fresh water soon."
"That may not be easy," Cristoph landed on the ground beside them. "These trees are thick this close to the city - I can barely see through them, let alone spot water."
The thought of dehydration made Rhia shudder and she was suddenly very conscious of how much she had sweat in the mad dash from the Cornucopia.
"Well I'll tell you what I see," Ben said, a smile spreading across his lips. "Presents!"
He held out a hand to catch the first parachute. "For you Avak!" he passed it over to him, and Avak pulled the chute off to find the small flask of tea from Valerie. He took a sniff and Rhia too caught the distinct scent of camomile. Even out here, Valerie was still the nurse.
Rhia grinned as Avak started to sip the tea and noticeably relaxed. The poor guy had been as tense as a piano wire ready to break the whole time. He'd taken this mission because he knew the fandom, but the waiting was testing the edges of his courage. Valerie's gift was a godsend for him.
There was another rustle in the branches above Rhia's head, and she looked up in time for something hard to clang into her forehead and then fall into her lap. She blinked and rubbed her forehead as the others stared at her.
"What? I've got a hard head."
Ben, who had just received his flask of whiskey, snorted. "I guess you have to."
A grin sprouted and quickly grew on Rhia's face as she picked her frying pan up from her lap. She hefted it and laughed softly. "Okay. I feel a lot better now."
"Wait, they sent you a frying pan?" Avak asked. "Isn't that a little...game breaking? Passion does know who you are, right?"
"Who cares? Now we can kick butt AND eat!" Ben said excitedly.
Cristoph facepalmed and went back up his tree to preserve sanity.
He almost fell out of it again, as the cannon let out an earth shattering boom. Everyone froze.
"We're under attack!" Cristoph called, slipping down the tree once more.
"No," Avak shook his head. "That's not what that means."
"Maybe it was a Sue," Rhia said hopefully. The colour drained from Avak's face.
"Or maybe it was Lily!"
Eyes going wide with horror, Ben seized his rucksack and sprinted blindly into the forest.
"Idiot!" Cristoph snapped, tearing after him in a blur. Scooping their rucksacks up and stowing their gifts, Rhia and Avak followed as fast as they could. Ben's frantic dash left a trail of destruction in its wake.
It was a small race against time as Cristoph chased after Ben to keep him from doing something stupid, and Rhia and Avak chased after Cristoph in an attempt to keep their group from splitting again. Rhia was closest, and she could barely keep the black blur that was Cristoph in her sights. Avak held the rear, panting hard as he tried to catch up.
There was a horrible squelch from up ahead, and Rhia felt her limbs go shaky as she imagined blades plunging into soft flesh. Tearing her way through the last clump of pine needles she skidded to a halt...and doubled over in laughter.
Ben lay face down in thick, gloopy mud, with Cristoph lying flat on top of him. Clearly the ninja had tackled him before noticing exactly where they were, and both of them extracted themselves from the glutinous mess with loud wet sucking noises. Ben wiped mud off his glasses, and as Cristoph tried to rise, he slipped again, and got another face full.
As if to make the scene of the large marshy lake even more welcoming, Lily was crouched on the other side, with a full bottle of water in her hands, blinking in astonishment at what had just burst from the trees. She did regain her voice first however.
"Cristoph! That's my boyfriend! Go body-tackle your own love interest!"
Avak charged through the branches right at that moment at full speed, ramming into Rhia's back. Rhia squeaked as she went flying through the air to land face-first into the mud next to Ben and Cristoph. Avak stared in horror at what he had done as Rhia pulled her face out of the muck and spat some out.
"This what you had in mind, Lily?"
There were a series of light squelches as Lily hurried around the edge of the lake towards them. "Almost...but you'd all have to be naked." She replied honestly.
Avak went crimson, and began to shuffle awkwardly. Through the dripping layer of mud on his face, Ben grinned widely.
"AFF?" he asked his girlfriend. Lily's cheeks went pink.
"Oh like you can judge me!"
"AFF?" Cristoph asked curiously.
"Adult FanFiction," Ben filled in. "Karissa introduced Lily to it the other week..." he looked proud. "I never knew my sweet innocent girlfriend could read such naughty things!"
Lily huffed and growled softly. "Innocent your ass. You knew that already."
Rhia facepalmed, only adding more mud to her face. "Flirt later? Water and getting clean NOW please..." She squirmed her way into the water, sighing happily as she immediately cooled off and felt the mud coming off her body.
As the only two people who had not got extensively muddy, Lily and Avak were tasked with hanging up their teammates wet clothes over the nearest tree branches. Under any other circumstances, Rhia suspected that Ben might have enjoyed having the excuse to strip and get wet, but whether from his girlfriend being in close proximity, or the fact Cristoph was glaring at him he kept his mouth sensibly shut as they sponged off and took gulps of the water once it had been purified.
"Well that's all of us together," Avak finally said. "Now what?"
With a blanket tied around her waist like a toga until her clothes could dry, Rhia was starting to feel the pinch of the evening air settling on them, and she shivered. "Maybe we should camp here. It's as good a place as any. And we're not going anywhere until our clothes are dry, or we'll all probably freeze to death."
Though she would never admit it, Rhia was in no hurry to leave the lake - not when Cristoph's half naked body was also waiting for dry clothes, and was fully available for her viewing pleasure as they began to set up camp. She sighed and stretched, going pink as Cristoph turned at just the right moment to see her arms above her head and her body stretched out. She squeaked again, and promptly brought her arms back down. He grinned briefly and dunked his head back under the water, rinsing out more mud from his hair. It was one of the rare times Cristoph was not wearing his cowl, and Rhia enjoyed this fact too.
"Ben, Lily, do you two want to find some firewood? It's gonna get chilly, I think. And we could have warm food tonight."
Everyone smiled at the thought of warm food, and the two quickly paired off and headed out in the search of wood.
The forest awoke with night time sounds as the sun set on the first day of Passion's Hunger Games. Crickets chirped quietly in the grass, going silent when they perceived a danger coming close to them. A few owls swooped through the forest, hunting down mice and flying away, completely unheard.
The five agents roped into the game sat around a small campfire. Fire, especially at night, was dangerous, but there was strength in numbers, and the night was unusually chill.
The anxious silence around the fire was broken by the sound of music. But it was not the usual anthem of the Capitol that usually introduced the list of kills for the day, but the jaunty notes familiar to anyone who played Final Fantasy.
Everyone around the campfire groaned.
"Suppose this is a victory to him..." Ben groused.
The others grumbled in vague agreement as they all peered up toward the sky. They wondered how many sues survived the cornucopia. How many more they would have to take out themselves? Holographic images shimmered in the sky through the trees, and there was a soft intake of surprise.
"Only two sues? That's...Huh. I don't want them alive, but I don't want to have to kill them either." Rhia sighed and put her head in her hands. "I don't know what to think." She grumped.
Cristoph, the sole person who knew nothing of the fandom, frowned in confusion. "I take it this was unexpected?"
"Absolutely," Lily nodded. "Usually over half the competitors die in the first fifteen minutes - they all murder each other scrambling for the best weapons in the Cornucopia."
It was rare that something could horrify Cristoph, but he could not hide a shudder at the thought.
"I guess Sues are too smart for that," Avak said thoughtfully, kicking more kindling into the fire.
"One certainly is. And this game fits her to a tee." Rhia stared hard at the fire, willing the flames to burn away the dark thoughts in her head. "There are no rules to this game, except that you kill. So she'll make her own rules. And she'll glory in them."
No one had to ask who 'she' was. In the distance something small scampered through the bushes and a howl filled the silence.
"Do we know any of the other Sues?" Lily asked, marking an 'R' in the dirt for Roxelana.
"The two that died today," Ben ticked off his fingers. "I didn't know either of them..."
"There was that Sue who was next to me," Rhia recalled. "Dark hair. Really fast."
Lily made more scratches in the dirt. "And the last one?"
"A Twilight Stu," Avak reported. "He sparkled like one at least."
Rhia and Lily couldn't help it. They snickered. Ben snorted. Before long, the three were clutching their sides in laughter, to the confusion of the other two.
Cristoph blinked. "What's so funny?"
Lily looked up and grinned. "A Twipire! He's probably gonna come up to us and talk about love, and how we could 'get out of this together,' and how nobody else was right for him." She paused, thinking wicked thoughts. "It might be fun to take that one out."
Rhia poked her arm. "Can I join you? Pleeeeeaase?"
Cristoph groaned softly. "Somewhere in the Library, Lord David is condemning this behaviour."
"Oh don't be a stiff," Ben admonished. "Embrace the insanity!"
"He does, every time he embraces Rhia," Lily smirked.
Blushing, Rhia willed the undergrowth to swallow her up, and she suddenly became very interested in checking her frying pan for stuck food. A small grumble came from under her breath that only Cristoph heard. "I like it when he's stiff. Fun stuff happens."
Cristoph turned a red to match Rhia, and the other three wondered why.
Avak sighed, and broke the good mood. "So, what do we do? We've got to win this game somehow."
Ben shrugged. "We fight. Until some other choice pops up."
"I wonder how the mentors are doing?" Lily thought suddenly.
"How do you mean?" Rhia asked, picking at a flake of some unknown substance on her frying pan. "They've been sending us gifts, so they're definitely alive."
"Yeah, but they're probably sharing a room with the other Sovereigns," Lily pointed out. "Tension in there must be the stuff of nightmares."
"Maybe the Sovereigns got into another fight and killed each other," Ben smiled dreamily.
Rhia blinked and smirked as she thought about it. "It's Tash and Harriet, stuck together, in a room full of Sovereigns. And they're both dutiful students of the Jenny School of Kidnappees." A small laugh escaped her. "I feel sorry for everyone else there."
Giggles rose from around the campfire. Even Cristoph had to crack a smile before pulling his cowl back on and getting swiftly to his feet.
"We should set up a watch rota," he said, pacing over to a nearby tree and eyeing it up thoughtfully. "I'll go first-"
If Rhia had blinked, she would have missed it. One moment Cristoph was standing tall, critically studying the tree for suitable vantage points, and the next he had crashed hard into the undergrowth. A creature of immense size, panting and covered in coarse fur was pinning him down, gazing at its prey with savage yellow eyes.
It was as if a lightning bolt had struck her. She was on her feet in a flash, frying pan ready to strike. She dimly heard the other three rising after her, but that was it. Her world had narrowed down to Cristoph pinned by something that looked very much like a Muttation.
"NO!" The wind whistled as the frying pan swung through the air, nailing the monster on the head as it looked up at Rhia's yell of rage. It yelped, once, and fell over on its back, dazed.
The entire attack could not have taken more than ten seconds, but time crawled at a snail's pace as Rhia stood over Cristoph, her eyes never leaving the creature once as it rolled over and rubbed its head against the ground in an effort to clear it. Getting a proper look at it now, Rhia could see it was a wolf, but of a size she had never in her worst nightmares imagined. It was almost four foot high, covered in dark brown fur that heaved with the creature's breaths. Its jaws were salivating at the prospect of a good meal. For a moment, Rhia remembered the fearful Mutts from the first Hunger Games book, and wondered if Passion was pulling a similar trick. But it hardly made sense. Usually Mutts were an end game trick set up by the Game Master, not something to be used right in the middle.
"C'mon!" Ben was tugging on her arm, and she became aware that Lily and Avak were moving Cristoph, dragging the stunned and gasping ninja up the nearest tree. It made sense - there was no way they could outrun a Mutt. Getting out of its reach was their best bet. Seizing a rucksack, Rhia followed, just as the creature rolled upright, shaking its head and swaying drunkenly.
"Remind me never to piss you off," Ben quipped shakily as they scaled the trunk.
The five tucked themselves into the branches of the tree, at least fifteen feet off the ground. Rhia slipped onto a branch next to Cristoph, one hand on his shoulder, the other supporting herself as they all watched the creature on the ground growl and stare up at them in anger.
"Rhia..." Cristoph sounded winded, but he was coherent enough to focus on their surroundings.
"Are you okay?" Rhia squeezed his shoulder and wished she had the manoeuvrability to hug him. He nodded.
"Nothing broken...just bruised." He rubbed his chest. "What is that thing?"
"God knows," the chef muttered, peering down at the wolf once more. "Most likely it's a Muttation - mutated animals bred by the Capitol."
"This is canon?" Cristoph was aghast.
"Shh!" Lily waved a hand urgently. "Someone might hear and come investigating! Do you want another Sue to know that we're trapped up a tree?"
She had a very good point, and all of them fell silent, watching the creature prowl around the base of the trunk. Beyond it, Rhia could see two of their five rucksacks abandoned by the campfire.
"We can't stay up here forever," Avak pointed out in a hushed voice.
"Anyone got any weapons?" Ben asked.
Rhia gestured with her frying pan, And Cristoph had a handful of small knives tucked in his clothes but beyond that, the five were weapon less. Ben scratched his head as he tried to figure out a plan. "We could have you drop on its head again with the pan...?"
"Maybe..." The chef's voice trailed off as she considered the trajectory. "Yeah..." She angled herself to drop down when a dark, thin shape flashed into the ring of light created by the fire. Rhia nearly squeaked in surprise as she froze, holding onto the tree by her fingernails and sheer willpower. Cristoph grabbed her by the arms and silently yanked her back up, wrapping a hand around her mouth to keep her from making a sound as they observed the second figure.
"Well now..." Roxelana's eyes seemed impossibly black in the flickering flames. "What's got you so grumpy?"
The wolf's attention swung firmly to this new prey, and Rhia felt the mad urge to scream a warning to it – "Get away from her!" – But the creature was already stalking around the campfire, sizing the slight looking Sue up. Roxelana tilted her head in curiosity, as though working something beyond the range of normal people's understanding. It was only now that Rhia noticed for the first time since the Games had begun, that Roxelana's wrists were bare and prohibitor free. Passion must have removed it.
The wolf stared at Roxelana from across the fire in confusion as she sat down. It then growled, raising its hackles as it tensed, ready to take down seemingly easy prey.
"Come now," Roxelana smiled. "Sit down. There's no need to be so angry!" The sue was unusually close to the fire, but the heat didn't seem to bother her. "We've a good fire, the twipire is at the other end of the forest, and our audience won't come down to bother us while I'm here." She giggled and turned to look up the tree. "Yes. I know you're there."
She returned her attention to the wolf. "They're scared of me. I cannot fathom why. I've always tried to be an accommodating host." She shrugged. "No matter. I'll be hosting them again soon. So please, sit."
There was a snarl, and the Mutt leapt at Roxelana, claws and teeth bared. Roxelana moved. She twisted, spun, and jumped to her feet, a burning branch in her hand, which smacked the Mutt in the eyes. It squealed in pain, crashing to the ground and clawing at its face, trying to get the last of the embers off.
The black-haired sue grinned. She tangled one hand in the fur at the top of the Mutt's head and slammed it into the ground, making it yelp and go still, whimpering softly.
"I know what you are. I want you to change back for me. I know you can."
The mutt gave a half-hearted growl and began to struggle again. Roxelana shook her head disapprovingly and tightened her grip in the fur. "Ah-ah! Bad dog!" She brought the burning torch in her other hand to the wolf's face, searing away what was left of its eyes as the scent of burning fur and flesh reached the agents in the tree, twinned with almost human sounding screams of pain.
Eventually the torch left the Mutt's face. "Change back." Roxelana said, almost seductively, "Or, we find out just how much the fire likes you."
The wolf whimpered again, and its form began to shift, fur vanishing and turning to bare skin, claws retreating into human fingers, and a canine face becoming human.
The agents all took a collective gasp as the werewolf turned back into the fast, dark haired Sue from the Cornucopia, and Roxelana grinned. "Ah. Thank you, dear. This'll go so much more smoothly if you just keep cooperating. Now..."
The branch was replaced in the fire, switched out for one of the knives she had received at the beginning of the game. She trailed it lovingly up the girl's side. "I promise you, you will love what I'm doing by the end. We'll have so much fun!"
She patted the female werewolf's shoulder. "Come now, things to do!" She paused. "Oh, and Rhiannon? I'll see you soon, my dear!"
Roxelana slipped the knife into her mouth, grabbed another burning branch, and dragged the girl away by her hair. The werewolf began to claw at the hand holding her, but Roxelana simply shook her as they disappeared into the forest.
Cristoph didn't dare remove his hand from Rhia's mouth until the light of Roxelana's torch vanished from sight. At that point, Rhia couldn't have said anything if she wanted to.
Dropping down to the lowest foothold on the tree trunk, Ben hit the ground hard, and squinted in the direction that Roxelana had vanished. A piercing shriek erupted from the trees, but no sign that the Sue was waiting in ambush. As the rest of them began to slither down the tree, Ben grabbed the remaining two rucksacks. Rhia thought she might remain frozen to the tree forever, locked in that moment. Then slowly she unpeeled her fingers from the bark and started to venture down. She only realised she was shaking when she missed a hand hold and crashed into a heap at the bottom of the tree.
Another scream, longer and more frightened than ever, came from the trees, and all five agents bolted into the undergrowth.
It had been silent in the Games room from the moment Roxelana had entered the clearing, and even now, all the mentors seemed scared to breathe too hard.
Finally, Order broke the spell.
"Does Merle know you took one of her werewolves as a tribute, Passion?"
Like a child caught stealing another cookie, Passion squirmed, shuffling from foot to foot, a drawn out humming noise coming from his mouth.
"Mmmm...I may have borrowed...without asking..."
There was a collective headdesk from around the table.
"Whelp, she's not getting that one back," Michael summarised.
"I wanna watch it!" Passion squealed enthusiastically, hitting a button and enlarging the brutal torture scene being acted out in the middle of the games. Everyone, agent and Sovereign alike, turned away in disgust, making their way to the corner of the room where the tea making station had been set up.
"Tashy," Harriet began, throwing herself onto the countertop by the kettle. "Will you-"
"Way ahead of you," her left hand assured her, already punching out a condolences post on Suebook. "Cristoph did have a point – Dave must be going mental."
Creation let out a yawn, and swayed gently on the spot. "I'm sleepy..."
"I'm not surprised," Life said critically, helping herself to a cup of coffee. "You're been using your powers all day."
"So why do you lot look fresh as a bunch of daisies?" Jared demanded, brandishing a hand at Order, Purity and Resolve, who were leaning against the wall at a respectable distance away.
"Because we didn't use our powers to provide fifteen cases of Red Bull for Passion," Resolve sneered.
"Oh my apologies," Michael said, with a bite of sarcasm. "I was under the impression that being a prick constantly was your power."
Tash and Life snorted tea and coffee out of their noses. Even Valerie's lips quirked in amusement, while Michael and Jared high fived. Creation yawned again and rubbed her eyes.
"Oh to hell with this..." she muttered, flipping open her sketchbook and making the first few sloppy sketch lines. "Passion!" she called. "I'm going to bed!"
"You what?" the gaming Sovereign was torn away from the bloody evisceration on the screen by the sound of his best friend's voice. "You can't sleep! We're in the middle of a game!"
Creation's eyes narrowed into slits, and every man in the room backed a respectable distance away – they were wise enough to fear that look.
"I DREW FIFTEEN CASES OF RED BULL FOR YOU TODAY AND REDECORATED THE ENTIRE SOUTH WEST HALF OF THE ARENA! YOU WILL DAMN WELL LET ME SLEEP!"
"Alright! Alright!" Passion whimpered, and for the first time, he looked completely sane and rightly terrified. "Jeeze...you know there are wonderful over the counter remedies for PMS..."
Adding the finishing touches to her drawing with a scowl, a messy pile of comfy looking pillows and blankets appeared in the corner next to the tea and coffee station. Creation marched over to it, and flopped down in the middle of the nest.
Right on cue, Tash gave a yawn.
"I'm kinda tired too...it's one in the morning."
"No its not, its seven pm," Michael corrected. Harriet rolled her eyes and bopped the three American mentors gently on the heads with her cricket bat.
"Well since you Americans have weird times, you stay up and keep an eye on the tributes while we have a kip."
"Where are you going to sleep, the floor?" Life sneered. Harriet matched her with her most condescending glare, but at that moment, the mountainous pile of squishy pillows on the floor doubled in size.
"Oh dear," Creation said, in a voice laced with sarcasm. "I seem to have enlarged my bed so that it's big enough for three people."
"What?" Order exclaimed, clearly horrified by what Creation was insinuating.
"And I seem to have drawn extra blankets in our arch nemesis's favourite colours in the empty spaces," she continued, pencilling in the last of the purple and green fluffy looking blankets.
"Creation," Resolve began, in a no-nonsense voice. "You can't seriously-"
"And I seem to have cast a 'No Smelly Boys' spell around the bed so that none of my fellow Sovereigns can come to my aid," Creation's voice was now dripping with mocking as she tossed her sketchbook aside.
"Mwahaha!" Harriet declared dramatically. "I shall now wreak havoc upon this pillow!"
She flopped into the pile of cushions and began to snuggle tightly with the nearest fluffy pillow. Chortling, Tash plopped down on Creation's other side, as the Sovereign began to make herself comfortable.
"Slumber party!" Harriet giggled, finally extracting herself from the pillow and fluttering her eyelashes at the male Sovereigns. "Wanna come paint your nails with us?"
"...yeeeah...I'm just going to go stand over there now..." Resolve said, beating a hasty retreat back to the table, where Passion was yelling helpful advice to Roxelana ("The other one! Burn the other one!"). Order mouthed a few more angry splutters before throwing up his arms in disgust and striding back to the table. Slowly, the rest of the group began to dissipate.
"Where are they now?" Valerie asked. She was not too keen to go near the table given Passion's morbid fascination with Roxelana's brutality. Fortunately Michael was far more desensitised and peered at the holographic display.
"South. They've found a skyscraper and they're settling down for sleep. Good thing too. Looks like it's going to rain."
As he spoke, a thundercloud rumbled overhead. And Passion gave a huff. It seemed that the entertainment was over, and he slammed a finger on the button that would sound the cannon blast, before scurrying off to the bathroom.
"He's mad," Resolve muttered.
"Tell me something that I do not know," Order invited. He spared a glare at the pile of pillows and blankets in the corner of the room. "And he is not the only one."
"Do you think it's possible that you could not be miserable all damn night?" Michael asked, snapping the lid off his bottle of friji.
"Yeah, it's going to get really boring, really fast," Jared added.
Order seemed to think that answering Society agents was beneath him, so he settled for peering down his nose and sneering. Michael rolled his eyes and took a swig of his drink, before scowling.
"Purity, continue to stare at my sister while she sleeps, and the Darkness and I will take great pleasure in turning you into a strawberry slushy."