Soli Deo gloria
DISCLAIMER: I do NOT own the Hunger Games.
I talk to nobody but Mom for the rest of the day. Bristel and Thom are more cheerful than I am. They are proud as they show my mom the stuff we picked and hunted today. She smiles, nods and watches me with a sad expression as I say, "I'm going to get more firewood."
There's a pile right next to our fire, but I don't care.
The evening passes over with severe coughing from the fires and people talking. The boys play with Prim and Posy. They actually smile and laugh. Even Prim, who has wrinkles on her forehead and an old face for a thirteen-year-old. She's barely smiled ever since Katniss left to her death. Neither have I. We're both worried, but since she doesn't know how to talk about that sort of stuff and I don't want to, we don't. We both inwardly suffer in silence, and at the moment, there's nothing we can do about it.
Morning comes, and it's the same old thing. Fishing, watching Rory hunt, gathering, barely talking, boiling water, watching, listening, waiting. Waiting for something to happen. Are we waiting for a bomb? Are we waiting for the Capitol to find us? Are we waiting for rebel soldiers? I hadn't thought of this happening when we came to this house. All I thought was to get people out of District 12, and fast.
There was something I noticed yesterday. It was red and barely noticeable, and I just dismissed it as Bristel and Thom pushed ahead. But I'm sure I know what are hidden in the bushes. Strawberries; I feel a slight pang, remembering the mayor's daughter. She's gone now.
I sigh and allow myself only that. It's another dark and dusty feeling morning. Mrs. Everdeen applies another layer of herbs to my ribs and asks about my arm and then I'm going off into the woods by myself. Just for a little bit. A little time at the strawberry patch to not have to be around these tired and sick people, to just have time to breathe.
I tell Mom I'm off, and in a few minutes I'm walking past a bunch of Seam kids, all too young to have gone into the mines, all old enough to be in the reaping. They're talking amongst themselves, acting like the teenage boys they are. About girls and all that. I tend to avoid that sort of stuff, seeing as the girl I like is gone.
Well, they're loud, with their annoying laughter filling the glum and serious camp. It sticks out like a fish out of water, and I throw them an irritable look as they snicker at something or other. I pass them, telling myself just to ignore them and their infernal laughter, when I hear one say, "Hey, did the blondie from town make it out?"
"Well, that narrows it down to half of town. Which one?" another says.
"The mayor's daughter," and I immediately turn to look at them suspiciously. My eyes narrow: What are they saying about Madge? I highly doubt that anybody from the Seam besides Katniss and me and our families associated with Madge. She was from town, and people from town barely want to be known to be with people from the Seam.
"Oh, her?" one says. He shrugs, and I feel indignant at how easily he shrugs. I know the answer to the first one's question. She didn't make it out because I wasn't able to get to town fast enough. It's my fault, and the Capitol's. Both of us are to blame for her death. The Seam boy continues, "Haven't seen her the entire time we've been here. Guess she's not here."
"Shame," the first one says. He leans against a rock and says, "She was a nice looking thing."
A rush of anger overcomes me, and I turn, and my jaw sets as I hurry over to them. The first one adds, "I mean, if she had made it out, she would have noticed me here, and who knows? Her parents gone too, she'd need someone to comfort her—"
"Hey, Gawson," I say, recognizing him as a wiry, pathetic looking fifteen-year-old. Even looking like that, half-starved, I can't help but feel like punching the hell out of him. We're here, practically starving in the woods, and he's sitting about the fire, talking about that if Madge had survived, she would have been with him. Like hell. Madge had better taste. He notices me, and I say in my quietest, most serious voice, "How about you move your lazy ass and start helping before I beat the hell out of you?"
He looks at me, and though his face is thin, I think he's making an effort to look defiant.
"I can say whatever I want," he says. "Besides, how can you fight me with only one arm?"
That's when I cross over to him, and looking into his face with a motivated death glare, I say, "That girl you're talking about, she's dead, and even if she was here, she wouldn't even look at you."
I step away, a dark frown on my face, and looking around, say, "Does anybody else want to add anything or defend your pathetic friend?"
That's then they stand up, their hands clasping into fists. Fine. My mouth, while usually withheld, has lashed out, and now I really, really don't have the time to go and beat up on a bunch of emaciated teenage boys who think they have something to prove when they talk like that about Madge.
My bow slides off my shoulder. I still keep it on me, despite my arm. A fight they want? Fine. Let's see what they'll say about Madge when they're covered in bruises. Probably not much, since I'm going to be busting noses and lips.
"Gale," I hear, but I ignore the innocent voice. I step forward, they do the same, and then again, "Gale!"
I stop and turn silently to see Prim behind me. She looks terrified, her blue eyes big, but she gulps and says, "There's—there's something you've got to see. A hovercraft!"
A hovercraft. I instantly grab my bow and ignore the shouts of "Coward!" and "Come back here!" They show a lot of bravado for being so skinny.
I rush after Prim through the camp. Along the lake, on the opposite side of the house, a huge forceful wind floods some of the camp. I reach the water's edge where Bristel and Thom have pulled their lines in favor of watching the hovercraft in amazement.
It could be anything. The Capitol could be descending on us right now. They could come in with their squads of 'Peacekeepers' and start to wipe us out. They'd overtake us quickly. If there's any chance for us to escape, the time is now. And yet none of us are moving. We're all watching, transfixed, watching as the hovercraft starts to appear. Bristel, brushing hair from her face that's flying everywhere, hurriedly turns her head and says quickly, "Gale, there are more."
I whip around to see that more patches of leaves on the trees are moving around violently, and I can just tell that hovercrafts are trying to find places to land. I wouldn't think it surprising if they descended onto some of the people just so they could have a place to land.
The wind starts to push people back, and my heart's pounding. How did they find us? I guess the Capitol knew that we had left, disappeared right from under their noses. That wouldn't do, so they sent search parties, to find us and kill us. They're sure not going to have mercy on us or just take us as prisoners. What's a bunch of expendable people who just use up supplies and are from the districts?
Maybe they'll just turn us all into Avoxes, though I highly doubt that.
My bow's in my hands and I want to position it to shoot, but I can't, with one arm. Still, if I could, my one bow against a bunch of Capitol hovercrafts with Peacekeepers. Well, the odds aren't exactly in my favor, now are they? Effie Trinket's trilly voice fills my head with her phrase, and she needs to go away. I take a deep breath.
Keeping myself calm, I ignore the shouts, the screams, the wails of horror, the sounds of children crying and men yelling and people running toward the center of the camp, people rushing into the house. We're surrounded on all sides by now multiple hovercrafts. Darting into the woods is suicide. You'd easily get shot down. Staying here is suicide. We're doomed either way.
The Capitol hovercrafts stop in mid-air. They don't start to move down any more, but a ladder falls from one of them, and then another, and another, and on each of the ladders, which slowly descend, is a figure.
I narrow my eyes and step closer to the one across the lake. A man gets off the ladder; he turns to face us. He's close shaven, wearing grey, looking old with gray hair, and tired. He's obviously not from the Capitol, who have their tattoos and brightly colored wigs and embedded beads.
But he has a gun.
I reach for my bow despite myself, and he looks around and says, noticing me, "Don't try anything stupid, son."
"Maybe if you just tell us who you are and why you're here, I won't shoot you," I lie, my voice cold but even. He can easily tell that I can't shoot him, though.
Beside me I can feel Prim's wide eyes look up at me, but I don't shake.
The man doesn't say anything for a moment. He looks like he's contemplating us. He and I stare at each other, our eyes never leaving the other. I only sneak away once, to look around and see other men and women with guns coming off the ladders of the hovercrafts. All are non-smiling, their guns in their hands with the straps over their shoulders, and they're all looking to the man across the lake from me. He must be their leader.
My look away is enough for him to be halfway around the lake by the time I look back. The crowd stops with their talking and screaming to listen as he says, "I am Commander James Boggs. I'm here with soldiers from District Thirteen, sent by President Coin to take all the refugees from District Twelve to District Thirteen."
The crowd immediately start to yell and talk and argue and murmur behind me but I keep my eyes on the man. Commander? President Coin? District Thirteen? I'm in shock. The place exists. It has to exist, or else where would these hovercrafts come from? Not from the Capitol, unless . . .
I say in a clear voice, "Do you know Haymitch Abernathy?"
Boggs nods and says, "Victor of the Fiftieth Hunger Games. Drunk as a skunk at any given moment. He's with people from District Thirteen right now. I can go get him for you on the phone, though I highly doubt you want to rustle him up."
My eyes stop narrowing, and my shoulder slacks. Only people who have known Haymitch know he's a pain in the ass. I've only had to see him a couple of times when I visited the Everdeens. We never conversed very much. Probably a good thing.
Boggs clears his throat and adds, "We have Katniss Everdeen."
Instantly I feel distrustful. Why would they have Katniss? How the hell did they get past the Capitol and rescue her? Even if they managed to get past the Capitol and their imperturbable weapons, who knows what they could be doing to Katniss right now. Torturing her? Holding her for information? Using her as a bargaining chip, but for what? What could we have that they need? There are a hundred questions on my lips, but I keep quiet.
I say after a moment, tired of the tense silence between us, "Where did you get her? How did you rescue her?"
"I can explain that in a minute, once everyone is on board. We need to get to District Thirteen in three hours, Coin's orders. Look, son, unless you want to stay here and wait for the Capitol to come and take you out, I suggest you let us take you to Thirteen."
He has a point. At the moment, this District 13 is our only chance. He's talking to me, though, and I realize that I'm the only one standing in the way of everyone heading to where they say they have Katniss.
I let go of my bow, let it relax on my shoulder, and give a nod. And he starts shouting out orders.
The ladders from the hovercrafts go up and down repeatedly. People let out little squeaks once they somehow get frozen onto the ladder, meaning either they're surprised or in pain. I immediately turn and grab Prim's hand, and we start to head to our campfire.
"What—what are we doing, Gale?" she says breathlessly. Her legs are shorter and slower than my own, which are now running on adrenaline.
I barely hear her. My mind is racing. How could this—there is a District 13. There really is a District 13. The people here could be Capitol people pretending to be people from District 13, but why would they bother to go and dress up when they could just come out and start shooting at us? This District 13 is real, Haymitch has been somehow communicating with them, somehow, I don't know, and they claim to have Katniss.
Mom has Posy on her hip, and Vick and Rory are around her, with Mrs. Everdeen saying, "Gale, what's happening?"
Tough thing to answer. I sum it up in one sentence. "There really is a District Thirteen."
We're on one of the hovercrafts. These things are way bigger on the inside than the outside. It's shiny, dark and full of seats. Soldiers from District 13 are making sure that everyone is secured in their seats. They are all frowning and quiet, only saying orders in quiet tones.
Prim's looking scared, and she holds onto Rory's hand, who sits next to her. They're both buckled into the wall, which has seats sticking out of it. Next to Prim is Mrs. Everdeen, who holds her other hand and looks around the hovercraft with a childlike wonder. Mom, Vick, and Posy are on the other side of Rory, Posy whimpering and Mom whispering to her.
I don't have a seat, however. A soldier comes up to me and wraps up my arm in a better sling than what Mrs. Everdeen had my arm in. It feels better on my arm. I wave a hand away from the bruising on my ribs, though, for I really, really don't want to have to deal with a new bandage. Not at the moment. The soldier says as she applies ointment to my burnt face, "You're going to have to get a new bandage once we're in Thirteen."
After that, she leaves to take care of the next burn victim, and I'm assigned a soldier to escort me through the hovercraft.
One of the soldiers, a girl, no older than eighteen, with dark brown hair in a plain bun and tall, walks up to me. She frowns; her gun rests in her hands like a baby, a strap over her shoulder.
"I am Soldier Agrava. I have been assigned to escort you to the captain's deck where Commander Boggs has called you," and she beckons for me to follow her.
I don't argue with her, knowing that she knows the way around this hovercraft while I don't. I fall in step behind her authoritative, marching steps.
At one corner, she turns abruptly and says, "What is your name, Soldier?"
"Gale Hawthorne, and I'm not a soldier," I say quickly.
"Everyone fourteen and older is a soldier in District Thirteen. You and the other refugees are now part of District Thirteen, or at least taking part in it at the moment. Therefore, your name is Soldier Hawthorne, Soldier Hawthorne," she says, and she turns and says in a sharper voice, "keep up!"
We go through a door into a clear section, with glass covering the ceiling and the windows. There's a man at a seat surrounded by buttons and switches; he has his hands on a wheel, taking nonsense into something on his ear.
Soldier Agrava steps forward and says, "Commander Boggs, sir!" and she puts a hand to her forehead. I look, confused, to where she's looking, and I see Boggs standing at a window. He's talking for a second, says 'goodbye,' and then puts the receiver of a phone back onto its spot. He turns to us, and looking at Soldier Agrava, says, "At ease, Soldier."
She puts her hand down and Boggs says, "Thank you, Soldier Agrava. You're dismissed."
She nods and hurries away, and I can feel the door close behind her. Boggs looks at me for a moment, studying me, and I feel like I should say something. I clear my throat and say the first thing I want to know, "Where's Katniss?"
"She's in a hovercraft, heading to District Thirteen." He nods to a metallic table and chair set, and he says, "Better sit down, son."
"My name's Gale."
"All right, sit down, Gale."
We both take seats. I sit across from him, the farthest seat from him as possible. He folds his hands and clearing his throat, and starts:
"Katniss, with her arrow, broke a barrier around the arena. It was like a dome, a shield, keeping the tributes from accessing the outside world. It broke, and the Capitol played fireworks to try to cover it up. That's when the camera footage for the districts went point blank.
"Our hovercraft was above the arena. With help from the Head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee, we had found the place where the arena was. However, other Capitol hovercrafts were there, and we only had one claw. We managed to save Katniss Everdeen, Finnick Odair, and Beetee Wilder."
So they had not managed to rescue Peeta.
"The Capitol has Peeta Mellark, Johanna Mason, Enobaria Leapsor, and a victor named Annie Cresta has been taken from her home, kidnapped by the Capitol. Currently, Haymitch and Plutarch are with the rescued tributes and should be at District Thirteen a few hours after us."
I stare at him, hard, for a moment. He looks back at me with a solemn look. Up close, he looks only in his early forties.
And I start to almost convulse, anger filling me, my mind raging with questions, filling my mouth and slipping off my tongue too fast, making me trip over my own words, "So there's been another district this entire time? And you knew about the Hunger Games? And you didn't—didn't even try to come and help us out? You just let the Capitol come and take our children and make them kill each other on national TV for their entertainment? And you just stood by and let that happen? You ignored us for seventy-five years! How—how—why—why'd you, you cowards just come out of hiding now? Why? Tell me!"
He looks at me, hard, and my breathing fills my ears, and I can barely restrain myself from just standing up and getting out of here, too mad to just look at his calm face. He answers after a moment, "Because of Katniss."
I let out a scoff. "What did she do? Catch your eye with being lit on fire? Is that what you needed to see?"
"She lit the rebellion. She started the districts up. We couldn't be able to just rebel against the Capitol. The top of our district was demolished seventy-five years ago. We threatened to bomb the Capitol. We came to a truce. We don't bomb them, they leave us alone. That's what we did. Now, with the other districts rebelling within themselves, we have enough people to help take out the Capitol. We couldn't intervene before now."
Boggs takes a deep breath and says, "Gale, look, you need to calm down. You're not helping anybody being riled up."
I lean back in my chair. All right. They didn't have the power or the means to take the Capitol. But they had bombs. But the Capitol had their districts they could force to do their bidding. With the districts out of their grasp, 13 could come in and attack. They had reason. They had right. It's just the fact that they watched the Games in their district with the rest of us suffering anxiety, pain, and loss concerning the Games that still angers me. But now nothing else.
Boggs holds out his hand, "Gale, let's agree to work together. You're nothing now. You need District Thirteen. Your district's gone, obliterated."
He needs to rub it in, doesn't he? But I lean forward and shake his hand. He leans back afterwards and says, "We'll be in Thirteen in less than forty-five minutes."
I'm outside the hospital wing of District 13. We've been here, what, six hours? and we've already been situated into the daily routine of District 13. I was immediately taken to the war room upon arrival after my ribs were treated, and met President Coin. A cold calculating woman, she nodded upon finding out what I did for District 12, and said coolly, "He'll make a good officer."
I found my family in their own appointed room. On the beds were neatly folded appointed piles of clothes. I kept on my own shirt to not disturb my bandage, which was replaced and had medicine applied to it.
A nurse comes out of the room, and she says, "You can go in, now."
I nod and enter, passing through into a quiet room. There's a beeping noise coming from the machine that's attached to Katniss. She's looking scrawnier than usual, lying on her side, her arm at a strange sleeping angle. She has scabs, burns, but otherwise they cleaned her up pretty well. A bag of drugs hangs over her head. She's under at the moment. But she's alive, and that's something I let out a sigh of pure relief over.
That's when she stirs, and I quickly lean over her as she opens her eyes and searches. She's under, all right, but she notices me, and despite all the hell we've been through, I smile a very, very tiny smile.
"Gale?" she says.
"Hey, Catnip," I reply.
She studies me for a moment, and then rasps, "Prim?"
"She's alive. So is your mother. I got them out in time," I say. "After the Game, they sent in planes. Dropped firebombs," and I sigh. She's looking at me intently, silently urging me to tell her more, and at the moment, I don't know if either she or I can handle the truth of our old district being burnt to the ground. "Well, you know what happened to the Hob."
"They're not in District Twelve?"
"Katniss . . ."
She closes her eyes, and I can just tell she knows something's up; we're obviously not in District Twelve. "Don't," she whispers.
I look at her, hard, and taking a breath, say quickly and firmly, "Katniss, there is no District Twelve."
Thanks for reading, it's really late and I want SLEEP, but bye! :)