The 79th Hunger Games

Disclaimer: I do not own the idea for the Hunger Games :)

Chapter Twenty

Beryl Streep,

District Three,

"Make me," I challenge Bailey, crossing my arms over my chest defiantly.

Okay, I'll admit that being rude to someone that could blast a fireball straight into you wasn't the smartest idea, but since when had I ever held back in saying anything? People just loved me putting my two cents worth into everything and I didn't see why I should stop now. Besides, I may as well leave this world the same way I came in; pissing somebody off. Well I must have irritated my parents enough for them to abandon me, mustn't I? Although I really shouldn't be thinking about my parents' motivations behind leaving me, since I was facing a girl who could very well end my life.

Was I scared? No, but there was a strange excitement bubbling inside me as I faced this new threat. Because even if this fight killed me, I couldn't say that I wouldn't enjoy it. The fighting and hopefully defeating my enemy part, not the actual killing, that is. Seriously, could somebody explain how sticking a knife into a person was any more 'thrilling' or 'fun' than attacking a training dummy? Personally, I didn't get it and I wasn't really in a hurry to find out any time soon.

Bailey just cocked her head slightly at me, "You're an odd girl, aren't you?" She inquires with a slight mocking tone to her words, "Here I am, in a position to kill you and both of your allies, and yet that doesn't appear to stop you from making your rude little comments."

"You're surprised at this?" Of course, Flint just has to make one insulting comment in this situation. I suppose it was beating what Hayley was doing right now. How was staring starry-eyed at the forest going to help us, exactly?

Bailey just shakes her head in response to Flint's question and raises her hands in the direction that Hayley was standing. It was apparent that she hadn't been bluffing when she said that she didn't have any qualms about killing Hayley. The unnatural fire radiating from her hands flares up and I could tell that she wasn't going to waste any more of her time talking to us. Hayley's eyes widen in fear and she takes a step back, her eyes darting around the forest, probably looking for somewhere to run to. However, Jack's hand closing around her wrist prevents her from going anywhere.

This earns Jack a slight smile from Bailey, something which clearly unnerves him, "Bailey, are you sure that you're not going to burn me with that as well?" I presumed that he was worried about Bailey burning his wrist off in the process of killing Hayley.

I can hear Flint muttering something that sounded less than complimentary about Jack, but I can't quite make out specific sentences since Bailey's voice overrides his complaining, "You'll be fine. Just let go of her at the last second or something," Her dismissive tone tells me everything I need to know about how much she cares – or rather, how much she doesn't care – about her district partner. I'm guessing that the fact district partners could win wasn't much of a big deal to her. Either that, or she was one of those tributes that didn't want to share the 'prize' of being a victor with anybody else.

Jack opens his mouth again, but Bailey manages to shut him up when she narrows her eyes at Hayley, fed up with waiting around for us mere tributes who were clearly standing in the way of her becoming victor. In the split second before Bailey launched the fireball, Hayley shoves against Jack, an action that contrasts with her previous struggles. Her sudden acceleration forward catches him off-guard and both tributes end up on the floor, neither of them daring to move as the fireball scorches the air above them. Everybody watches in silence as the unfortunate tree that happened to be in the way took the full force of the impact.

After the initial impact from the fireball had dissipated, the tree still appeared to be standing. Actually, it appeared to be completely unaffected by the flames that had attacked it just moments earlier. Had the Gamemakers made the plants fireproof this year? That didn't sound like something that they would do; you couldn't have any forest fires with flame-retardant plants, could you? My impressions change almost immediately as the effects of the 'fire' make themselves apparent. At closer observation, you could see the flames licking away at the tree, burrowing down into the centre of the tree and eating away at it from the inside-out. You could hear an odd hissing sound as the bark was slowly reduced to ash. From what I knew, fire didn't act like that. Fire didn't have any pattern, any order, except to incinerate everything in its' path to nothing. And it definitely didn't hiss like a cauldron, I could tell you that much.

"Bailey," I ask, my eyes transfixed on the fire that was now slowly reforming into a strange liquid the colour of amber at the roots of the tree, "I don't think that's fire."

"You're right; it's not," She replies, not sounding the slightest bit affected by her supernatural abilities, "It's some sort of acidic chemical. Well, at least that was what I was told, anyway," It then occurs to me that she wouldn't have any idea of what kind of acid had been used to make the weapon that she now wielded. District Nine was not a scientific paradise, and it was highly unlikely that she had ever seen any refined chemicals before, let alone use them.

"Oh, even better," My sarcasm is tangible, "I feel so reassured now, since it's so obvious that you know what that stuff does. Did you bring a copy of your instruction manual with you?"

"No, I don't need one," She replies in the same monotone voice that she had maintained for almost the entire conversation, "But I'm sure that watching this power kill you will teach all of us something new, won't it now?"

I've already dived out of the way before the last word has left her lips, meaning that her attack takes over the space that I had occupied mere moments ago. However, I hadn't acted fast enough to completely avoid it, and I can feel a weird burning sensation in my back, where I only had these stupid overalls protecting my back. Overalls that would prove useless against this corrosive fire. It was easy to ignore at the moment, since I hadn't been subjected to the full force of Bailey's attack, but who knew what that stuff would do to your nervous system in the long run.

Flat on the floor, with my back tingling like crazy, I'm in no position to dodge another attack and she knows this. Out of the corner of my eyes, I can see another burst of flame grow in her hands and I know that she's going to try and kill me again, but Flint decides that it's a good time to attack Bailey with his bare hands, judging by the muffled protest she makes and the light suddenly being cut off as she tried to fend off this new threat. Inconvenient it may be for her, but it gave me enough time to stand up and assess the scene that was playing out before my eyes, as well as give me some time to see if my back would hinder me too much in surviving. Cautiously, I use one hand to feel my back, seeing if the fabric had been damaged by the fire. The fabric felt worn and frayed under my fingers, and I can feel warm blood pouring out of several tears in the overalls. Clearly, the fire had damaged my skin, although the full extent of the damage remained a mystery. It wasn't like I could see what had happened for myself, since I didn't have eyes in the back of my head or whatever.

No smoke was being created by the fire that was slowly eating away at the trees that had been set on fire, which was only further showing how unnatural this ability of Bailey's truly was. I had no idea about why Bailey had been given this power. Okay, it was pretty obvious that this was all because of the Gamemakers, unless people from District Nine was now developing superpowers all of a sudden, but why they had chosen Bailey remained a mystery. Unless they had chosen more 'lucky' tributes to receive such abilities. It wasn't something that everyone had, since I didn't remember having anyone give me powers or instruct me on what they did. Somehow, I doubted that Bailey and Jack would be very forthcoming if I asked them about who else the Gamemakers had picked – we were currently engaged in battle here. Well, Flint and Hayley were, anyway. I was just casually milling around and not doing anything, still trying to figure out how serious my injuries were.

As far as high-octane fighting went, this wasn't my best moment, I'll admit. I'm injured and I haven't even managed to inflict a scratch on my opponents.

A hiss from Jack draws my attention back to the dispute between him and my ally. None of them had managed to injure each other very much, but the strange amber liquid that the fire was creating seemed to be creating enough of a problem on its own. The two tributes had been too busy being caught up in their fight to notice the liquid approach them, and now Jack's arm, which had been briefly in contact with the acid, was now starting to blister and turn red. Whatever substance that stuff was made of must react fast, and I quickly hurry over there to try and help Hayley get away from the acid before it could affect her. She didn't resist as I tried to drag her away from this new danger.

Note the word 'tried'; I hadn't been using the three days of training to improve my strength, not like it would have made much of a difference anyway, and I was still as pathetic in the muscles department as ever. Therefore, dragging a seventeen-year old girl who was paralysed with fear away from something was no small task for me. I guess the fact that I was gawking at the acid wasn't helping much either, but it was hard to look away as Jack's reaction to the liquid became more obvious. Not only did it appear to inflame your skin, it also ate away at it. Like with the tree, it seemed to burrow down though the thin layers of skin. It wasn't long before you could see bone. Unsurprisingly enough, Jack wasn't exactly just standing there like a mannequin and saying nothing while he watched the acid work away at him, oh no.

"Bailey!" It was impossible to miss the note of desperation in Jack's voice as he pleaded to his ally that had indirectly injured him, "Do something!"

Kicking Flint away from her, Bailey manages to pull herself up, "Are you kidding me? You're dead already."

"You're the one who caused this. Can't you do anything?"

A harsh laugh is the only response that his pleas get, which only further proves my suspicions of how little Bailey cared for Jack. Evidently, the fact that he happened to be her district partner – meaning that she didn't have to kill him to win – didn't mean much to her. It seemed wasteful, but since I hadn't known Jack, and had no desire to, it only benefited me. Why should I care about his impending death when it only removed one of the twenty four obstacles that had been in my way at the start of the Games?

Bailey, realising that she couldn't win with the odds being three to one, backs up a few steps, her eyes calmly glancing around the clearing in hopes of finding an escape. This does not escape Jack's notice.

"You're leaving me?" Betrayal seeps into his tone as Bailey's intentions become clear to him, "You're not even going to try and help?"

"Oh good, you managed to figure out what I'm doing," She replies mockingly, "You always were slow to catch onto things."

Flint, who had been eyeing Bailey warily, takes a step forwards, "You're not going anywhere," He growls.

"I beg to differ," Bailey replies dismissively, not even bothering to glance at Flint, "Now, since my ally is slowly disintegrating into nothing, I don't have any reason to stick around."

"Wow, aren't you nice?" I interrupt, "Firstly, you try and kill me and my allies, and now you're going to betray your own district partner and leave him for dead. I would love to invite you around for a cup of tea and cookies," I realised that I had let go of Hayley, since she had managed to scramble to a seated position, her eyes wide.

Bailey's eyes light up at my words, the calculating gleam in them immediately putting me on edge, "Oh no, I can't have that," She says, "I can't have everyone thinking that you're more likely to win than me, just because you managed to kill someone. Have you killed anybody yet?" She tilts her head slightly to the side as she observes me.

"Not really."

"That's not a surprise then," She says, "And I'm not letting you start now."

Before we can ask what she means by this, she outstretches her palms and sends a fireball straight into Jack. It happened so fast that I barely managed to comprehend it. One minute, he was scrambling around in the bushes, presumably looking for some plants to heal his injuries, next minute he was nothing but an inferno, silhouetted against the piercing orange flames. He arched his back as he writhed around, trying to lessen the pain in some way. Of course, his attempts were futile. Five seconds after her betrayal, his cannon fires.

Bailey just smiles, "I'll leave you three alone now," She smirks, her eyes trained on something behind me and Hayley, "I doubt that I'll ever have the misfortune to see you again."

"How do you figure that, then?" Hayley pipes up, her voice shaky from fear.

Bailey points a finger to whatever was behind me, "You'll be too busy dealing with that to be concerned about me."

Risking a glance behind me, I can see the acid that the fire produced creeping up behind us. It had spread out behind the tree that had been initially targeted, and you could see the thick shrubbery burn away into nothingness. Jumping over that liquid to safety would be suicide, since the pool of acid was far too wide to traverse over. Flames were dancing on the surface of the acid, enticing us into our deaths. I can hear the pounding of feet against the ground and a frustrated hiss from Flint, indicating that Bailey had left. Come to think of it, now would be a good time to make our daring escape too.

Grabbing Hayley's hand, I try and pull her to her feet. However, I have to give up after the strain that it placed upon my back became too much for me to handle. It felt like the flames were actually scorching my back now, alerting my body to the fact that I had been injured, and I drop Hayley's hands as I grit my teeth against the pain. Was this how being burnt felt like? If it was, I didn't enjoy the sensation, although that was no surprise.

"Come on, we need to move," I manage to get out, and she complies willingly, actually managing to stand up and move away from this new danger. The acid was moving lazily across the forest floor towards us, blocking off any other routes to go down except for the obvious path that Bailey must have taken.

I was really getting fed up of the Gamemakers controlling where we were going. It wasn't like they were going to lead us to some safe heaven, was it? However, we didn't have a lot of choice. When the options you had were limited to either being burned alive for sure or walking down the route to less-than-certain death, you'd take the second option. Well, I hoped that it was less-than-certain death anyway, but for all I knew, I could die in this arena anyway. I guess that was one thing that I had learnt from today: you didn't need to just watch out for the other tributes. You had to avoid the Capitol's wrath as well. They were the ones with the power in their hands. Not that I had ever taken that into consideration before when I had dealt with the Peacekeepers in District Three and the Gamemakers.

So why change my ways now?