Demeter Ross, 17, D9
Hercules and I have only just sat down at the table for breakfast when Eudora clears her throat and looks at us pointedly. "Well, was either of you going to tell me about that girl from 11's little plan or were you hoping I'd just remain oblivious to it all?"
We both look at each other and Herc raises an eyebrow. "I'm sorry, we didn't think it's that big of a deal?"
"That big of a deal?" Eudora laughs, swishing her cup back and forth as she does so, spraying droplets of water all over her eggs. "You're invited to join an alliance that could very well mean either you find great success or doom, and you don't think it'd be wise to discuss it with the only person in this god forsaken place that actually cares if one of you makes it out alive or not?"
Her glare is like ice, and we both try to avoid it, staring at the knives and forks placed around the table. "We're sorry," I start, half lifting my eyes in an attempt to feign contact.
"We should have told you. We just weren't sure whether or not we we're going to accept her proposal yet." Herc lies. "Do you think we should?"
A cruel smirk stretches across her plasticized face and she sits her cup back down on the table. "Why of course I do. In fact, I've just been discussing the situation with both the Escort's from 11 and 7. We think it should really spice things up in the game this year."
"Escort from 7?" I ask, confused.
"Yes, apparently the girl from 7 was approached as well. What she's got to offer, who knows!" Eudora drones. "Now, here's what they had to say….."
Spencer Lux, 16, D11
I never expected that Rye and I would be allies, or anything closely resembling them from the moment I joined her up on stage at the reaping, but the fact that she's orchestrating her own alliance and has already written me off as unnecessary kind of hurt a lot. Especially considering that last night over dinner all we ended up talking about was Rye's little plot. After the reaping I'd been under the impression that Gesha couldn't stand to be within five meters of her, let alone give her helpful hints, but it seems Rye's got a talent for winning people over with her quick witted words and sinuous voice.
It's a lot harder for me to get my point across when I'm a stuttering mess.
Right now I'm in the training centre, waiting for my turn to use the toilet. Despite all the Capitol extravagance surrounding us, it seems there wasn't enough money in the budget to build more than one toilet for the tributes to use in the facility, and sometimes the wait to get in can be pretty long and uncomfortable. Lucky for me now it's pretty early in the day and other than whoever is in there already, I'm the only one wanting to use it.
I hear the toilet flush, then the sound of the tap running before the door slides open slowly and the girl from 2's head peers through the gap. When she first sees me waiting she pulls her head back in a bit, her green eyes stretching wide open in fear, before her cheeks blush ruby red. "I'm so sorry, have you been waiting long?"
"No n-not at all." I lie. The truth is that despite the line being non-existent, she has been in there for a really long time. "I only just got here to tell th-the truth."
"Oh, thank god." She sighs, wiping her hand across her cheek, and if it wasn't for the angle that the light from above hit her cheek, I wouldn't have known she'd been crying, but for one brief moment a small tear glowed gold against her freckles, before it vanished entirely, swept away by her fingers.
"Are you alright?" I find myself asking, all too curious to find out why she of all people would be crying. Not only is she a career, her parents are victor's. If anyone should be feeling confident right now, it should be her.
"I'm fine, really. Just feeling a bit homesick." She smiles as she finishes the sentence and her cheeks, which are too round to belong to anyone who has ever known true hunger, press upwards, making her eyes crease up. "I'm sure you know what I mean."
"Oh I kn-now w-what you mean." I stutter, ringing my hands together. Back home in 11 I'd be lucky if any of the girls ever asked me for a pencil in class, and the chance of one of them continuing that conversation past the word 'thanks' was nill. But here I am, in a corridor leading to a room full of weapons, talking to a girl who is practically royalty. Well, royalty as far as the district's are concerned.
"I'm Rose." She tells me, stretching her hand out towards my jittery hands, and instead of grasping hold of one of them in a shake, she places it over both of them and squeezes tightly. "What's your name, if you don't mind me asking? Some of the other kids seem like they'd rather remain anonymous."
"I d-don't m-mmmind at all." I stutter, trying to stretch my trembling lips into something resembling a smile. "I'm Spencer. S-ssss-s-sorry about all the st-stuttering. It's a nervous habit of m-mine."
"I'm making you nervous? I'm so sorry."
"No, no, don't be. It's j-just you're sss-so, umm, never mind." I can feel my face going a thousand different shades of scarlet. "I don't t-talk to girls much."
She smiles at me again, but this time it's much softer, an almost shy sort, with only the corners of her mouth tilting upwards just the tiniest bit. "Well, stutter or not, you're not doing half bad at it. Talking to a girl, that is."
"Well th-that's a relief." I laugh.
Allius Winters, 17, D3
We've made an uneasy sort of alliance with the pair from 12, or at least that's the best way I can describe it. It's more of just a friendly tolerance of one another as we move from station to station. For the most part we've stuck with the more survival based ones, but Flinch and the girl both felt like it was time we ventured into the weaponry area. So far we've been to the axe station, which proved beyond a doubt I don't have the arm strength to carry something of that magnitude. Flinch in the end was the only one who could really manage, but even then he was struggling, so we all decided we were better off moving along before the Career kids found us and started pointing and laughing.
Right now we're at the archery station, and I can already feel my self-esteem tumbling lower and lower. The huge hulking boy from 9 is manning one of the bows, and he's such a good shot it makes me want to cry. Cole so far hasn't done too badly with the other bow; he might not be getting any bulls eyes, but it's not like he's missing completely.
Flinch runs his hands up and down my shoulders, sensing my nervousness. "Stress less Ally. If you can't use a bow we'll move on to the knives. Everyone should be able to use one of those."
"I don't know about that."
"All you've got to do is grasp onto the handle and stab with it."
"I've got weak wrists."
He sighs and squeezes my shoulder tightly, something that's both a comfort and a worry. I pull myself away from his hold and his eyes cloud over with hurt. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be Flinch. It's comforting, really it is." I smile, brushing my fingers against his. "But we can't have people knowing about us. They'll use it against us in the games."
"Us?" He grins, "What exactly are we?"
I sigh and fight back the urge to collapse against his chest, to let him wrap his arms around me in his patented bear hugs. "In this place, I don't know what we are. I know what we'd be back home, but not here."
"And what would we be back home?" He whispers, eyeing Modest as he does so, because her head seems to be tilted suspiciously in our direction, ready and willing to listen to our conversation.
I wait until I'm sure she's not listening to reply. "You know exactly what we would be back home, what we should have been."
And what we now never can be.
Rose Stroud, 17, D2
Jarred throws spear after spear at a set of rotating targets, each one snagging itself deep in the rubber dummies abdomens, necks and heads. To the right of me, at the sword station, Brock is slicing the arms off stationary dummies, before spearing them in the place their hearts would be if they were living, breathing opponents. Farther to the right Brynn is sitting down, weaving a net together out of water reeds. And me? I'm sitting on a crate feeling like my chest is going to explode because I'm so anxious.
"Not feeling up to it today?" A voice says behind me, and when I turn Aria is standing there, holding a knife in each hand. Even though she's about the same height and size as me, I can't help but feel intimidated by her presence. Unlike Brynn, who's so far been more than eager to start up a conversation, Aria's hardly spoken more than three words to anyone in training. What she has been doing is being constantly on the move, throwing knives into targets and acing the agility courses without even breaking a sweat. I know just as well as the boys do that she's going to give everyone a run for their money, unlike me, who is basically just the life support system, a direct line to the heart of the Capitol, whose use will eventually dry up.
"Not really." I say. She studies me for a moment, her eyes sweeping over me cold and hard, before she thrusts one of the knives in my direction. I can't help but let out a pathetic shriek in terror before flinching away from her, terrified she's about to attack me. But when I open my eyes she's just got her arm outstretched toward mine, knife in hand, the ghost of a smile etched onto her lips.
"I'm not going to hurt you. Take it." She shakes the knife in her hand, and reluctantly I take it from her. She nods her head and points at the target. "Try and hit that."
I take in a deep breath, line the round dot in the centre up with my line of vision, before pulling the knife back, ready to throw. Aria's hand, lightning fast, grips onto my wrist, locking it in place.
"You're holding it wrong. Hold the blade, not the handle." She tells me, releasing her hand from around my wrist.
"The blade? But I'll cut my hand won't I?"
"No. Trust me, ok?"
I don't know why I decide to trust her and take her little knife throwing lesson, but I end up listening intently to every word she says and trying to replicate those words into movement when I finally throw the knife. It sails through the air –albeit a little wonky- and hits just on the edge of the seven point zone. It's nowhere near perfection, but it's a good effort for someone as new to all this as I am.
"Good job for a first throw." Aria exhales, twirling the other knife's point in circles on her palm. "Here, have another shot."
"Why are you doing this?" I ask as I take it, feeling suspicious, as though at any moment her district partner is going to jump up and laugh at some joke they've played on me.
She seems taken aback at first by my question, and her eyes go wide as saucers. "Why am I doing what?"
"Because right now you need the help."
"Helping me isn't going help you in any way though, so why are you doing it?"
This time she actually does smile. It's a genuine smile, not one full of malice and treachery like I'd expect from someone who thus far has remained entirely stone faced. "I might be a Career Rose, but not everything I do here is for my own gain."
Vivian May, 16, D8
Airick and I have been waiting in line at the climbing station for a whole ten minutes when the boy from 1 makes his way over towards me.
"Hey, how you doing?" He asks as he slots in between the two of us, and I become immediately aware that he's flexing one of his biceps against the wall.
"I'm...Fine?" I reply, feeling uncomfortable by his too close presence. It's not like he's an unattractive boy, in fact he's quite the opposite, and in any other situation I would have eaten up attention like this, but flirting with someone who is about to become a mortal enemy seems like an unwise life choice.
He grins, showing off a row of pearly white teeth. "That's awesome. Anyway I just wanted to say you looked damn fine in that little jumpsuit you were wearing during the parade."
"Thank you." I mumble, now feeling more embarrassed than uncomfortable.
He doesn't seem to notice. "You're welcome. So I was thinking…" He leans down close, so his mouth brushes across my ear, making my spine tingle in a way that I can't be sure is either good or bad. "If you ever get bored of hanging around your little district partner here, I'd be more than willing to waste some of your time. In fact, I'm pretty sure the toilet's empty right now if you wanted to…."
Before he can even finish that sentence Airick spins around and smacks him hard in the jar, catching him off guard and making me scream. "Airick what are you doing?!"
"He shouldn't have been talking to you like that." He huffs shaking his hand back and forth in pain. "My god, what is your face made out of man? Iron?"
The boy, who up until now had been leaning against the wall stunned, scowls. "You'll regret that kid. You're the first person I get in the bloodbath, I swear."
"Well why don't you just save yourself the wait and finish me off now huh?" Clenching his teeth as he finishes the sentence and jamming his hand into his pocket to try and stifle the pain. For a moment I think the boy from 1 is going to take him up on the offer, but when he notices the obscene amount of officials who've suddenly surrounded the station he backs away.
"Like I said kid, I'll get you."
"I'm so scared." Airick hisses as he walks off. He waits a moment, apparently making sure the Career kid is out of range, before turning back to face me, his face twisted up in agony. "Oh god Viv I'm terrified! Why the hell did I do that?"
"Because you're just two sweet for your own good." I smile back at him.
"Well that can't be too much of a bad thing then can it?" He half laughs, wincing as he pulls his hand back out of his pocket. "Uh, Viv, I think I'm going to go get this looked at by first aid."
"I'll come with you then." I tell him, and together we leave our place in the line and make our way over to the aid official, whose already waiting for us, arms folded across her chest in disapproval.
Katie Chandler, 12, D6
I've been working on my little fire for now more than five minutes when the kindling starts smoking, and a few tiny embers catch onto the dried grass shoots. Russell's eyes grow wide in shock.
"Wow Katie, that's impressive."
"What can I say? I'm a talented individual." I grin, watching the orange flames flickering up underneath my hands. I pull them away, but not before I feel the heat on my palms. I've always loved that sensation. It was one of the reasons why I decided that the way my family was going to go was by fire. You can't ignore burning heat, not like you can a young child. Someone once told me that the pain one suffers while burning to death is so excruciating that each time you pass out, the pain just wakes you right back up, and you can't ever escape it. I'm not sure exactly how true it is, but I like the sound of it, that's for sure.
"That you are." Russell winks, returning to his own pathetic attempt at a fire. "You know, I've got a brother about your age."
Really? How fascinating." I chime, trying to sound like I care. In reality I couldn't care one way or the other.
"His name is Fitz." When I don't reply he continues on. "Did you know him?"
"I got schooled at the home, so no, probably not."
"That's a shame. You two would have got along well I think."
Unlikely, I think to myself. "I bet you miss him a lot hey?"
"Yeah." He mumbles, staring down at his hands. "At least I've got you to keep me company though hey?"
"Oh of course." I smile, throwing another pile of grass on my fire, making it snap and crackle loudly. "At least you've got me."
Cyra Hale, 15, D7
Just like she instructed me to do the day before, I take my plate of food at lunch and sit opposite Rye on one of the outer tables. "Alright, what's the plan?" I ask, only to be greeted by her hand being held up in my face.
"Shh, this turkey sandwich is too tasty to split my concentration from, give me a moment." She moans, shovelling mouthfuls of the stuff into her mouth. I sit quietly across from her, flicking my peas and potatoes across my plate. For some reason I'm not all that hungry today, in fact, to tell the honest truth, I feel a little bit sick. I guess I've probably eaten a bit too much food in the past few days, and my body is struggling to keep up with my mouth. Rye doesn't seem to be suffering the same fate, instead she seems even more hungry than anyone I've seen so far.
When all the food has been scraped off her plate I decide to try and talk again. "Are we good now?"
"We are glorious." She beams, setting her knife and fork, which she barely even used, down in a cross pattern on the plate. "Your Escort and all that informed you about District 9's involvement I'm guessing?"
"Great. So here's the deal. For this alliance majigga thing to work, it'll be best that other than us core four, no one knows we're in cahoots, otherwise…" She pulls her finger across her throat in a slitting movement, "We're toast. You get me?"
"Yeah I get you, but how are we supposed to work out a plan of attack for the Cornucopia?" I ask, and Rye grins from ear to ear.
"Why do you assume we're going to do that?"
"Because I sort of feel like unless we get hold of some supplies this alliance will burst apart at the seams."
"Hmm good point good point. Well on that matter, big boy Herc is going to do most of the work. We'll stick to the edges, scavenging the bags full of empty water bottles and what not."
"Are you sure that's a good idea? The Careers will go for him straight away, he's a massive threat."
Her smirk is so smarmy it's almost disgusting. "Oh, but they won't. Now, you asked before how we were going to communicate, did you not?"
"Well here's the deal. I talk to you, you talk to Demeter, she passes on the message to brute boy, and right now I've got an important message you need to get across."
"ok, what is it?" I ask.
Rye clears her throat and flexes her fingers out in front of her, making her joints crack. "Hercules Mercules needs to join the Careers, so we can get the weaponry we need without suffering too much…damage."
By damage I know she means death, and I feel my skin crawl at the word. I keep forgetting that this situation could mean either life or death for me. "What if they won't have him?"
"Oh I've got a thousand other plans up my sleeve, don't you worry, but I think they'll take him, I mean, have you seen that boys accuracy with a bow and arrow? And his size? And the muscles on his arms that are practically bursting out of his skin?"
"I see your point. Nice visual."
"Thanks. I do try. So do you think you'll be fine to pass that message on?"
"Of course." I say, before remembering there is one last nagging question drifting around in the back of my mind. "Rye, what do we do after all that?"
She laughs at this, a quiet sort of huffy noise in the back of her throat. "Oh, that's easy. We run, and we don't stop until we can't hear everyone else screaming anymore."
Jay Bird, 14, D10
Gray and I are sitting on a table with the boy from 11, Spencer. He thinks he's being sneaky, but I can see him peering to his right and watching the Careers, who are all hooting and hollering like they had the day before.
"Why are you watching them?"
He jumps, startled, and then his cheeks burn bright, making his grey-green eyes pop out in comparison. "I-i-I dunno, I'm just nnn-nervous."
"About what?" Gray asks quizzically, his brow crinkling up into a medley of wrinkles. "Everyone's nervous after all."
"I'm just worrying about the scores tomorrow." Spencer replies sheepishly, slinking back against his chair. "I bet they've all already got everything figured out, you know? Then there's people like me, who've got no idea what to do in there."
Against my better judgement I reach across the table and pat his hand lightly. "Hey, we're all in the same boat with that, am I right Gray?"
"You bet. So far I'm thinking of just walking in there and doing army rolls." Gray laughs self-depreciatingly, burying his hands in his face as he does so. "I'm sure you'll have something better than that in mind."
"Oh I don't know about that." Spencer mumbles, completely stutter free, and I can't help but feel good about that. The poor kid's so nervous all the time, especially since his district partner started flat out ignoring him in training. It's nice to see him relax a little, even if it is only temporary.
Jane Rooke, 18, D5
Training is a bizarre experience. I don't think my arms and legs have ever felt so sore, I tell you what, that agility course is brutal. I'm glad the Grant has been pushing me to do things today though. It's nice to have someone around to motivate me.
You're probably wondering who Grant is, sorry, I should have explained earlier. He's this sweet boy from District 4 who seems to have taken a shine to me. Normally I would try and convince a person like this to just leave me alone, like I have with all my friends, but he looks at me with such admiration Jason, I just couldn't do it. He looks at me just like you used to, which is crazy of course. This boy's barely even out of childhood, and he hasn't known me nearly long enough to truly love me. It's just, I think he gets me, or he understands that I'm not rainbows and sunshine, and I think he's ok with that. He likes me for me, for all my sad lonely moods and habits, and I suppose if you meet someone like that, who likes you despite your faults; you might as well keep them around.
Of course you needn't worry about me reciprocating any romantic feelings. He's much too young for me. Jason. Not like you were.
I've got to go, Viridian is calling us over for dinner, and I know Lewis is terribly hungry. She'll make him wait to eat until I show up. Something about manners apparently.
Aria Mallow, 18, D1
There's a certain perk to being on the ground floor; we've got our own private garden sort of place instead of a balcony. District 12 apparently has their own rooftop rendezvous point, but I wouldn't trade the view up there for the privacy the manicured shrubbery provides. I wouldn't want to see the chanting public down below or the shows they play on the giant screens. I'm quite happy to only be able to hear them through the bushes.
When I go out to the garden, which is really only a rather small square, Brock is already sitting on the bench, nursing a bag of florescent green liquid against his face. "Heard you got punched out today by the boy from 8."
He pokes his tongue out at me and groans. "I'll get him back for it, you watch. On the plus side though he's sprained his hand." Brock gently pats the side of his face and grins. "Jaws of steel baby doll, jaws of steel."
"You're a human parody Brock Emerald." I sigh, taking the seat beside him. "What smooth moves did you pull on his district partner?"
"What makes you think I pulled any at all?"
"I know you too well."
"And yet I hardly know you at all." He slides across the seat, closing the small gap between us. For a moment I think he's going to be his usual skeezy self and drape an arm around my shoulder, but instead he just twines his hands together in his lap. "Nervous about tomorrow?"
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't."
"Well don't be. You'll be fine. You'll ace it."
I raise an eyebrow. "You're not trying to butter me up with compliments, are you?"
"No." He laughs, shouldering me gently. "I know you're much too smart to fall for my charms. I'm being serious, you'll do great."
"Well then, thank you, I guess."
"Don't even worry about it."
We sit in silence for a few more minutes, or as much silence as is allowed in a place as lively as the Capitol, before he speaks again. "I think we need a goal for every day, from today onwards. You know, something to look forward to in a game where there is virtually nothing to look forward to."
"I'm sure you've got tomorrow's picked out. What are we striving for in the private sessions?"
He smiles, and this time he actually does wrap an arm around me, but there's nothing sleazy about it. If anything it's just a friendly gesture. "Our goal for tomorrow is to make sure at least one of us gets a better score than Jarred."
I can't help but smile a little at that. Alright then, you've got a deal."
Sorry about the long wait for this chapter, I just got a new job and I had to work every night for a week, so I haven't had a lot of spare time for writing :/ I know a few characters didn't get a mention at all in this chapter and I'm very sorry about that! It doesn't mean I don't love them, I just ran out of time and ideas to fit them into this particular chapter. They'll have a POV in the next chapter to make up for it I promise!
So anyway, onto some serious business! The next chapter is The private sessions/ Training. I was thinking about doing a third training day, but I'm sure you're all just as anxious as I am to see the games start. So on that note, if anyone has anything they especially want their character to do in their session, let me know :)
Till next time (hopefully much sooner than this hehe)