Chapter One is kind of an intro to the Quarter Quell preparations, just a bit about the scientists in charge of some rather epic stuff for the arena. You'll be seeing a lot more of these three, so pay attention.
Oh, and if you haven't submitted a Tribute or whatever, read anyways! I mean, I asked a few people specifically for Tributes, so don't take it personally that you can't submit. I promise it'll be interesting no matter what, so... yeah.
To those who did submit: hope you like it! Your Tributes won't appear here, but they will soon... I promise.
Zefram Singh ducked to avoid the potted plant hurtling through the air at his head, dropping the papers he had been holding as he entered the room. The plant sailed through the open doorway and landed in the room beyond, shattering the pot and covering more than one of the assistants with dirt.
"Goddammit! Those fucking stupid idiots!" the thrower of the plant continued, stalking past him as if she didn't see him- which was probably the case, actually. She stopped at the window, fists clenched.
Zefram turned to the other woman in the room, who was leaning against the far wall with a calm expression on her face, which didn't surprise him, considering who it was. "Any idea what's wrong now, Rega?"
"You are late."
"Sorry..." Well, it was hardly his fault that his alarm clock had mysteriously failed to go off, but he knew from experience that it was no use telling her this. She accepted no excuses, had no mercy, and was completely oblivious to Zefram's flirtatious comments. "So is this a sudden expression of some deep grudge she's had against plants her whole life or is it the Gamemakers again?"
Regula Eden raised her left eyebrow, grey eyes unamused. "Need you ask? This is hardly the first time that she has brought this concern up."
"I'll tell you what's wrong, Zefram," the woman at the window spat, turning and storming over. Aytar Gwyn was quite the striking woman, even (in Zefram's opinion, especially) when she was furious, with deep auburn hair, a perfect body, and fiery green eyes. Zefram found her quite attractive, especially when those remarkable green eyes were snapping with righteous anger, as they were now and he flirted with her often, not that she ever responded to her advances.
"It's those idiotic Capitol pricks, dammit! I've told them time and time again that it isn't safe to play around with powers they don't understand. I've told them that what we've been doing here is fucking experimental and very risky. But do they listen to me? No! And who's the expert here? Huh?"
"...um..." Zefram shrank back slightly.
"You and me and Regula, that's who! They don't know shit about this stuff! They... they could destroy the goddamn universe if they aren't careful!"
"Aren't you being a touch overdramatic? Just a bit, maybe? It's not good to overreact-"
"How exactly does one overreact to the end of the world?" Aytar crossed the room and grabbed Zefram's collar, spitting her words out. "And you! You're totally on their side! You like watching them use our technology to kill innocents!"
"So? It's entertaining. That's what the Hunger Games are for. What would this world be without the Games?"
"We need to get to work," Regula said, stepping between the arguing scientists. "The Gamemakers are coming today to review, remember? It is illogical to waste our time with pointless arguments."
Aytar froze, obviously having forgotten this. "Fuck. We are so screwed." And with that she ran into the other room, no doubt to start badgering the assistants.
Regula folded her arms and gave Zefram an icy stare. "The Hunger Games are 'entertaining'? That is... sickening."
"It's not like you didn't know that I thought that. Why so surprised?" He shrugged, a careless smile on his lips. "I wouldn't exist without the Games."
"I know. Self-preservation."
"It's not like that's not your motivation, too, Rega."
"Are you guys going to help or not?" Aytar's voice came from the other room, annoyed.
"On our way, cutie~" Zefram called, flipping his bleached-blonde hair out of his eyes and winking at her.
"Don't call me that."
"The time is 0900, our agreed inspection time. The President wishes to see the preparations for the Games."
Aytar frowned at Archer Blyss, Head Gamemaker of Panem. "You never said that the President was coming."
"It should not matter. If you're ready, you're ready. Besides, he insisted," the blonde Gamemaker replied, glancing nervously back to where the President himself stood.
"Right. Um... come on in, then." She stepped out of the way, letting Archer enter. He was followed by the President himself, dark eyes as sadistic and smug as always. There were a few others, Gamemakers and the like, but Aytar's eyes fell on one young man- boy, really- in particular, who appeared to be part of the President's entourage.
He noticed her stare and smirked. "Hello. Are you so overawed by my epicness that you can't tear your eyes away? That's okay, it happens all the time~"
"What are you doing here?" Regula's voice, coming from right next to her, made Aytar whip around, surprised. She hadn't even heard the blonde approach.
"The President invited me. He and I are close now, after all. I'm his favorite Victor." And with that Ferro Rete, winner of the 98th Hunger Games, sauntered into the lab, trademark smirk still on his face.
"God, I hate him," Aytar muttered, rolling her eyes and following the grey-haired boy inside.
"...and, of course, you have got to see our latest innovation," Zefram was gushing as Aytar and Regula reentered the lab. The easy-going man had started the tour already, and his face was eager as he led the President to the center of the room. The assistants had conveniently disappeared to parts unknown, leaving the three senior scientists alone with five Gamemakers, a Victor, and the President of all Panem.
No pressure or anything, right? Pssh, no.
"This particular invention," Zefram continued, "utilizes something we're calling the 'Manheim effect' to open a... a kind of a window into another dimension. It results in a short loop- nothing too dramatic, of course, but enough to make things... interesting."
"How far would the effects of this reach?" the President asked, looking interested.
"As far as we know, the effects should be limited to the area around the device. Certainly it won't escape the arena."
"He acts so confident for them... but we're the only ones that know exactly how unreliable this stuff is," Aytar whispered into Regula's ear. Her colleague nodded curtly, looking faintly displeased.
"How exactly does it work?" Archer piped up, reaching out to poke the smooth metal casing. Regula stepped forward smoothly and grabbed his wrist with a surprisingly strong grip.
"You are forbidden from touching that."
"And that's classified information," Aytar snapped, stepping forward. The Gamemaker tried to pull his arm out of the blonde's grasp, glaring at the scientist and opening his mouth to say something heated.
"Okay... on to the next exhibit!" Zefram said quickly, before Archer could order Regula arrested for assault or something like that. The President looked faintly amused by all of this.
The Gamemakers finally left about three long hours later.
"My God, I thought they'd never get out of here," Zefram groaned, slumping into the armchair in the corner. "They just kept on asking questions and bothering me and... I'm hungry now... but I want to sleep... argh, what do I do?"
"You were totally sucking up to them."
"How unfair, Aytar. Someone needed to be nice to them, and it certainly wasn't you. You were too busy glaring at that boy they brought along and Rega was occupied with keeping their dirty hands off her precious equipment."
"Untrained imbeciles such as them have no business traipsing about a science laboratory," the blonde replied coldly, leaning against the wall. She was the only one of the three that didn't seem completely drained by the Gamemaker's visit, though it wasn't as though she ever showed any emotion anyways.
Aytar sat down heavily on the floor, shaking her auburn hair out of its high ponytail. "Zefram, you were giving them a false sense of security. You were outright lying, in some cases." She shook her head. "That's not right."
"Hey, hey, don't blame me. Just 'cause we know that we're totally screwed doesn't mean that we have to tell them."
"He has a point," Regula pointed out, which was surprising, since she almost never agreed with him. Noticing their incredulous looks, she raised her eyebrow and continued, "We know that our technology will malfunction at some point. It is no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when."
"Ironic that you put it that way, seeing what we're dealing with," Aytar said dryly, yawning. "So what you're saying is that we need to figure out what's going to go wrong and how to cover out asses when it does?"
"Crudely put, but essentially correct."
"Well, there's no time like the present, is there?" Zefram asked brightly, grinning. When he got twin glares from the women, he laughed and shrugged. "Sorry. Couldn't resist. Shall we get to work?"
And so Ferro reappears! That's for those of you who read my last SYOT, the 98th Hunger Games. The President and Archer Blyss appeared in that story as well (see Ch. 14, 'Playing God').
If that was confusing, here's a summary: there's these three scientists, Zefram, Aytar, and Regula, and they're working on some top-secret stuff for the arena this year. Only... they know that there's no way it's going to be perfect in time so there's going to be all kinds of stuff going wrong with it. Which will make it interesting to read, ne?
Explanation of the Quarter Quell twist and (hopefully) a Tribute list will be next chapter.