Chapter 1

"Hey Brainless!" I hear someone shout from behind me.

I turn to see my best friend, Sabrina, running towards me through the crowds of people trudging to the forests for work.

"How's it going?" I say smiling at her.

"Pretty fine. Going to the forests?"

"I'm carrying an ax, Brainless."

She laughs out loud. "Well we know that we're talking to Johanna Mason."

I wink at her and continue the trek to the forests amongst the District Seven citizens. It's a pretty far walk.

"How's it going Brainlesses?" We hear a male voice behind us.

I turn around and punch my other best friend, Lincoln, in the face. "Hey, Nosebleed."

He straightens up and pulls a tissue from his back pocket holding it against his now bloody nose, as if this sort of thing happened on a regular basis, which it did.

"I don't know why I like you two." He says over our roaring laughter.

"Because, back in Kindergarten I broke your nose and- you know I don't know." I say looking over at Sabrina. "Because it's hard not to love me."

"More like I pray that one day you won't punch me in the face." He says rolling his eyes.

I smile up at him. "It's not very likely."

"Fantastic." He says his voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Consider yourself lucky." I say wiping the blood from my knuckles on his shirt. "I don't punch everyone because I don't want to get asswipe on my hands."

"Oh Yay, I'm not an asswipe." He says facetiously.

We finish our hike to the forests to gather with our team, awaiting orders from our rather rude foreman.

"Alright ladies," The foreman says sharply. "Twenty trees or twenty lashes, take your pick."

"I choose trees." I say loudly.

"That was rhetorical, Johanna." The foreman says glaring at me.

"Yeah I know." I say smirking.

He looks as if he wants to continue our bickering, but decides against it, knowing that against me, he would only waste valuable daylight.

I spot my younger sister Renee listening to some guy preaching loudly to a group of stationary lumberjacks.

"Renee!" I shout marching over towards her.

She turns and the guy stops his preaching.

I storm over there and stand upon the stump the guy was preaching from. "One, shut up, there isn't a god. Two, if you don't shut up I'll stuff my fist into your face and it'll take a surgeon to get it out. Three, if ya'll don't get chopping we're all gonna get whipped. Now scram!" I shout at the 'priest' and his listeners. "Get!" The people scatter rather quickly.

"Shame, he would love to have you follow him and spread his word." The preacher says solemnly.

"Shove it." I say shoving him away and looking at my younger sister angrily.

"Jo! It's not that bad." She whines.

"Yes it is! You're going to get yourself killed! This crackpot is feeding you lies." I say jumping from the stump.

Sabrina and Lincoln watch me. "Nosebleed, go get Ed."

Lincoln runs off. "Jo! It's true! Can't you feel His presence?"

"I can feel the whip, but not any supernatural being protecting me. Because he's not." I snap. "Now get to work."

Renee's thirteen, with auburn hair and the Mason's blue eyes, she's rather pretty, but she's naïve when it comes to the Capitol and its punishments.

"What's wrong?" Ed says getting to us.

"Renee's been listening to the crackpot." I say glaring at the crazy guy continuing his rant.

"Ah Renee!" He says looking at her with disappointment.

"It sounds like a better option. It's better to have faith than to just feel sorry for ourselves!" She begins her usual argument.

I sigh and scramble up the tree with my ax and Sabrina at my side. We hack away at the higher branches to allow a safer fall when we chop at the base of the tree.

"It's sad." Sabrina says. "Renee, she's gonna get herself whupped."

"There's only so much I can do to protect her." I say wiping sweat from my forehead.

"Hey Jo," Scarlett, my other sister, says as she climbs up and chops at a branch near my face.

"You hit me with that thing and you're dead." I say looking at the ax as it repeatedly hits the branch three inches from my face.

She smiles. Scarlett's fourteen, a year younger than me. She has blonde hair and the Mason's signature blue eyes, just like Renee. "Where's Max?" I ask.

"Down at the tributary, I walked him. He's got his own team now."

"He's already eleven." I say shaking my head. "Mom? Has she moved?"

"No," She says frowning as she sends the ax deeper into the branch and closer to my face.


"He's off at the mill."

"Oh so he got up this morning?"

She nods. "I asked him, he barely answered me but he says mom is ill."

"Ill? So she lies in bed for days without moving a muscle because she's ill?"

Scarlett shrugs. "Ed took Xavier to the neighbors for babysitting."

"Oh," I say. "We've got a lot of siblings."

Scarlett laughs. "That we do. Mom and Dad really need a hobby don't they?"

This makes Sabrina and I laugh, still chopping away. Finally, we finish the branches and hop down the tree like three little squirrels. I whistle for help and Lincoln and Ed come by to help us chop the trunk. It doesn't take too long, we're good at what we do and have had years of experience.

With a crack and a huge thump the tree falls. Our fellow foresters help us drag the log to the tributary where Max and his team of younger children roll the log into the water and walk it down the tributary to the mill.

I wipe the sweat from my forehead. We repeat three times before the Mockingjays imitate the note saying that it was time for everyone from thirteen to seventeen to go to school for the next three hours, and then we were back to our jobs.

"See ya Ed!" I shout to my older brother.

"See ya Jo; try not to get kicked out this time!"

"No promises." I say laughing alongside Sabrina and Lincoln.

I walk Renee and Scarlett to school after checking up on Xavier from our neighbor's house. Well I didn't. Our neighbors didn't really like me. Something about not liking the fact that I spend my free time on their roof or throwing rocks at their son's window.

Not my fault.

So, Scarlett went in and checked on little Xavier.

He's three years old, blonde hair, Mason blue eyes. I was the odd one out of the family. Everyone had either blonde hair or red hair, but I had brown. I had brown eyes while the rest had blue. Ed liked to tease me saying that Mom must have had some explaining to do when I was born.

Although, my freckles that dust my cheek bones and my nose are a trait of the rest of my siblings, I still was just different.

I'm also a little punk.

I pick up a rock and throw it at the window. Eric, the boy whose window I'm vandalizing, had little scratch marks from all of the rocks I threw at it over the years.

Sabrina rolls her eyes at me and shoves me to the ground. I jump back up and punch her in the stomach. Lincoln joins in by grabbing my arms and holding them behind me so that Sabrina could punch me like a bag.

So what does she do?

Punches me like a bag, that's what.

"You three," Scarlett says rolling her eyes.

Renee still isn't talking to me. I kick Sabrina in the stomach and she backs off laughing.

We make it to school while my friends and I try to add scars to each other's wound collection.

"Johanna!" I hear someone angrily call my name. I turn to see none other than Eric storming up to me.

"Stop throwing rocks at my window!" He booms.


"Because it's annoying!"


"You need to stop."


"Just stop!"

"Why?" I say smirking.

He screams in rage and stalks away.

"He needs anger management." I say to Sabrina.

She scowls at me. "I hate you sometimes."


"You know why!"

"Brina's got a crush!" I sing quietly.

"Keep your day job."

I wink at her making her more frustrated at my antics. Lincoln looks at us in amusement. We enter class with no intentions of learning a damned thing and move immediately to the back of the classroom.

"Here's a fun little game." Lincoln suggests while our poor teacher tries to teach us literature. "If you were picked for the Hunger Games tomorrow, what are you going to do?"

"Freak out, cry like an idiot, seriously hurt myself. Throw myself off the stage in an attempt to kill myself." Sabrina suggests exaggerating slightly.

"Seriously." Lincoln says rolling his eyes.

"I'd act like a weakling. So do about half of what Sabrina suggested, and then act like a weak little kid the rest of the time."

"Johanna Mason weak?" Sabrina says laughing. Lincoln joins in on their mockery.

"Well, I'd act like it! Then I'd come out and show my super awesome skills."

"Johanna Mason? Awesome?" Lincoln says as they both begin to laugh.

I punch them both in the gut ending their laughter just as the teacher looks back at the three of us.

"Johanna Mason!" She scolds.

"What?" I ask looking from my still laughing, yet gasping slightly, friends to the teacher.

"Don't 'what' me. What are you three talking about?"

"The Games tomorrow." I say flashing a smile. "We can't wait!"

If you can't see the sarcasm then you don't know me.

The teacher purses her lips and continues to talk about poetry or some crap no one cares about.

"I am awesome!" I say smirking. "I'm a vicious, killing machine."

"Now that, I can see." Lincoln says smirking.

"Yeah, Johanna Mason, victor of the sixty eighth Hunger Games, crazy ax murderer, twenty four victims, and counting." Sabrina says chuckling.

"You really think you're funny huh?" I say glaring playfully at her.

"I am funny." Sabrina says smiling triumphantly.

"Maybe in a mental institution."

"Ouch," Lincoln says looking between us.

"Johanna! Out!" The teacher shouts, unsurprisingly. This is a daily occurrence for the class, so no one is really caught off guard.

"We'll finish this next class." I say narrowing my eyes at Sabrina.

She gives me a cheeky smile. "Sabrina, Lincoln, you too."

"Ha!" I say triumphantly. "Finally I'm not the only one!"

This earned eye rolls from the rest of the class. Eric trips me as I walk down the aisle of seats, so I catch myself and kick him back.

"Punk," He mutters rubbing his shins.

I cock an eyebrow at Sabrina, causing her to blush a deep crimson.

"How can you like him?" I say loudly as we walk down the hallway. Lincoln snickers behind his hand, avoiding a punch from Sabrina aimed at his face.

"He's sweet when you're not throwing rocks at his window, kicking his shins, or threatening him during class." She says rolling her eyes at me.

"Is that so?" I say stopping my tread and pretending to ponder the idea with an exaggerated, thoughtful expression.

Lincoln laughs. "Not everyone is like your beloved Nosebleed. You see, I deal with all of that. Eric is normal."

"Normal's boring." I say loudly.

Sabrina shoves me into the lockers with a smirk, starting a wrestling match on the ground while Lincoln refs the competition.

Sabrina taps out and I get up with smirk. "I'd be a victor." I boast happily.

Lincoln begins to snicker, stopping when Sabrina punches him in the face. He pulls another tissue from his back pocket and presses it to his now bleeding nose.

"I'm going to have some sort of nose problem when I get older." He says rolling his eyes.

"Ah, chill out Nosebleed, it's not like we broke your nose again." I say sticking my tongue out at him as I walk backwards to talk the two of them. I'm leading them down the hall with my hands in my pockets.

"Keyword of that sentence would be again." He says sticking his tongue out at me back.

I laugh. "Let's skip class." I say yawning exaggeratedly. "I don't wanna deal with people."

"Surprise, surprise." Sabrina says laughing.

"Hey, tomorrow, one of us could get picked." I say smirking. "Let's spend our 'last day together' somewhere else."

"None of us are going to get picked." Lincoln says shaking his head. "Not us or your siblings Jo, or Eric. We're gonna be fine."

"Or we could just go back to class." I say batting my eyelashes at him imploringly.

"The apocalypse is tomorrow." He says decisively.

"Yes!" I say running down the hallway with my chuckling best friends behind me. We run towards the mill and into the forest, after crossing the tributary.

I lead the way through a beaten down path we had so many times followed during school. I don't stop running until I see the hammocks we had set up in the top of the tallest tree. We scramble up and claim our separate hammocks once we come to the base of the trunk.

We relax contently in the swaying hammocks, the slight breeze cooling the sun heated land. I was up the highest, but we were close enough to be able to talk to each other.

"You know, eventually, the foresters are gonna get to this tree." Lincoln says carving something into the bark of the tree.

"Yeah," I say. "But that's years from now."

"This is true." Sabrina says. "By that time I'll bet we've forgotten about this place."

I nod. "We'll still be friends though. Right?"

Lincoln nods vigorously, looking up at me with a determined gaze.

"Of course!" Sabrina says just as determined as Lincoln. "Till the end."

I nod. We continue talking about what we would do in the Games until we hear the end-of-school tone.

"I better go get the brats." I say scrambling down the tree easily.

"I'll come with you." Lincoln and Sabrina chorus. This starts a shove fight as they follow me down the tree.

I start the run to the school, quickly becoming a race, Lincoln has longer legs, but I have better agility and endurance so I overcame him eventually arriving at school short of breath and smiling at my victory.

"You two suck." Sabrina says panting as we wait for my sisters to exit the building.

I shove her to the ground in a loving way. At least, it was meant in a loving way. Most people would consider shoving someone to the ground and then kicking them in the stomach as painful and unloving, but we're not most people.

That night, Renee prays. She prays to God. Neither Ed nor I bother to stop her, there's really no point.

Dad didn't come home that night. It's the night before Reaping, so I'm surprised he isn't here to support the four, eligible children he has at home. We're nervous for the possibility that at least one of us is going into the Hunger Games.

Max cuddles into my side and I tell him stories about a mythical creature that I made up in my head. Just nonsense. We didn't have dinner and when we don't have dinner he gets worried that he would starve before morning. I know that it wouldn't happen because it was just one night, but he doesn't so I tell him the stupid story.

"Did he die?" He asks eagerly.

"No Brainless." I say rolling my eyes. "He obviously didn't. It'd be a crappy story if he did."

Max smiles up at me. Ed's playing with Xavier, so I get Max ready for bed.

"C'mon we have an early morning." I say smiling. I share a bed with Max and Xavier while Ed gets his own, Renee and Scarlett share a third bed.

Max cuddles up to my side. If it were any other night I'd push him away. Xavier chose to sleep with Ed for comfort so Max and I had more room.

Yet I still end up with no breathing space.

"Jo?" Max asks sheepishly.


"What if you get chosen? Or Ed? Or Renee? Or Scarlett? Or all of you?"

I smile despite the seriousness of the question. "None of us are going to get chosen."


Obviously I can't promise, I don't know what'll happen tomorrow, but for the sake of my sanity, and for the sake of a night's sleep before the anxiety of tomorrow, I need him to shut up. "Promise." I sigh.

A/N Editing time! Review please. The rest of the story is going to be under periodic editing. So, have patience. I read this entire thing over the weekend and two words: Utter. Crap. So I'm going to be doing editing, rewriting, and I'll be getting those spinoff one shots up presently!