-March 27th, Year of the 46th Hunger Games-
The crowds roar as two stallions pull the first chariot into the streets of the Capitol. District 1, a pair of tall blonde eighteen year-olds, wear robes of silk and cashmere that fly behind them for several metres. The screams of the audience do not cease as District 2 roll in. All around me are Capitol citizens in this private box. There are, however, the other mentors scattered throughout the crowd. Vira and Surge who sit several rows in front of us whoop in appreciation as District 3 come out, with outfits that spark blue static from all over.
District 4 appear, the girl wearing a long flowing dress like the sea, and the boy in sandy colours like a beach. And mere seconds after they're rolling down the streets, Circe and Vice appear behind them. They both have large mechanical wings – supposedly this symbolised the wind turbines in the District – it's dubious, but it looks pretty and that's all that matters to these people. The crowds roar.
The tributes have faded into the distance alarmingly quickly, and it's not long before Tyga and I return to meet our tributes. They have yet to arrive but Surius, Cassia and Decimus, plus the two prep teams are gleefully buzzing around.
'What did you think?' Cassia beams.
'It was wonderful!' Tyga replies with a grin.
Decimus is furiously tapping away at his circular computer device, before he smiles at us. 'District 3 and 5 were the highlights!'
We don't have time to reply, because our conversation has been interrupted by the sound of two dozen horses pulling into the building. The District 5 carriage seemingly manages to find itself to us. I wonder if the horses have been somehow modified to know their route so well. Cautiously, the two tributes step off the chariot, Circe almost hitting Vice in the face with a wing.
'I think they liked us!' she says cheerfully. 'There were so many people!'
'There's upwards of 100,000 people with tickets to get a glimpse of you in that chariot!' Cassia says, her lilac eyes squinting with glee. 'And many, many more will be watching at home!'
'Can we get these off now?' Vice asks gruffly, gesturing to the giant metal feathers that spurt from his back and ignoring the happiness of the others, 'They weigh a tonne.'
'Unfortunately, that's a job for upstairs – kind of a one-time thing, these outfits,' Surius says, 'We'll need wire cutters.'
We stroll towards the elevator, Vice looking fairly self-conscious in his bold outfit, but Circe seemingly unfazed. It becomes apparent very quickly that, with the scale of the wings, we are not all going to fit into one elevator. Vice, Circe and the stylists fit in, and there's just enough of a space for Decimus to squeeze into, but Tyga and I will be taking the next elevator. As the doors close shut, Tyga and I are left waiting for the next one to arrive. It's not long before it announces its arrival with a ding. We step inside and the doors begin to hiss shut.
'Wait! Hold the doors!'
I jam my foot in between the closing doors and, detecting it, they slide back open. A skinny man dashes into the elevator. He's clearly a Capitol citizen, but his style is much less...severe than any of the stylists here. He wears a very dark green suit – almost black – and an evergreen shirt underneath. Under the shirt's collar is a white tie, with light green embroidery. His hair is black, with bold streaks of green in a fringe that is styled into a small silky quiff.
'Thank you,' he says, straightening out his suit. 'Floor 4 please. One of the tributes from 4 thought it would be an appropriate move to try and smuggle a knife into the arena – I'm here to inform him otherwise.'
His figure is skinny and of average height, and I'd guess his age at around forty, though with all the surgeries available, a person's age is often hard to guess in the Capitol. He has no clear makeup on, but his eyebrows are dyed bottle green and there's something unnaturally sharp about the hazel in his eyes. The doors hiss shut.
'My name is Ornlu Snyde,' he says with a sour smile, 'And of course I know who you are. Everybody knows who you two are, Mr. Jedd, Miss Redlake.'
'I suppose they do.' I'm not particularly familiar with people talking in elevators. I thought there was a sort of silent code that you kept to yourself on the elevator journey. Perhaps it's a Capitol thing.
'I've seen you in Snow's box. You're one of his men.' Tyga says.
'I'm a lot more than one of his men, but yes, that's somewhat vague, but essentially accurate. And speaking of the great man, it's come to his attention that you two are-' he appears to search for the word, though I'm sure this is just for effect. '-involved.'
An icy river suddenly runs through me. How can Snow know? Hadn't we been so very careful? Where did we slip up? It's Tyga who replies to Snyde.
'Somewhat vague, but essentially accurate.' she says, mirroring his words.
His mouth twists into what is possibly a smirk and his eyes flick to the elevator doors. 'Well, I hope it doesn't interfere with your work.'
'Good.' I feel the elevator come to a halt as we hit floor 4, and Snyde keeps his golden eyes locked on the doors. 'I'd hate for us to have to...intervene.'
The doors slide open and he doesn't even give us so much as a glance as he leaves. In fact, all he leaves us with is silence. Cold, venomous, deadly silence.
The silence isn't broken until we arrive at Floor 5, at which point Tyga and I, through some unspoken agreement, walk straight past the occupants of the floor and beeline for Tyga's room. I hear a few confused comments from Decimus and Cassia, but no one stops us – perhaps they sense the urgency. When we're both inside Tyga's plush quarters, she bolts the door behind her.
'How can he know?!' she cries.
'Keep you voice down!' I hiss.
'But we did everything – everything!' Her voice has quietened, but not significantly.
'Maybe Decimus mentioned it?'
'Surely he knows how important it was that this is kept a secret!' She's frantically pacing around the room. 'He's done damage management before – for all Decimus' flaws, he knows how the Capitol society works. No, I'm sure he wouldn't let something like this get out – at least not without a full risk assessment.'
'Maybe...I dunno – maybe a peacekeeper saw us?'
'Maybe. But the risks for reporting something like that and then finding out it was misinformation could be drastic.'
'Well, then – what?'
Tyga sinks onto the bed, wiping a bead of sweat off her forehead. Her face opens a window into the panic blooming in her mind, and suddenly her eyes widen. 'Follow me.'
She unbolts the door, and again we dart through the main quarters.
'Excuse me, Tyga and Connor!' Decimus says, his voice sharp and flustered, 'I think now is a bit of an inappropriate time to be deserting the team, don't you?'
Tyga ignores Decimus, but I reply. 'Sorry Decimus, we'll be back in a minute.'
He purses his lips the way a man who had always had control but suddenly lost it would, and we return into the elevator. Tyga punches a button that I hadn't noticed before. Above the button for Floor 12, there is a half-button with the letter 'R' on it. When the doors open, I take a guess that the 'R' stands for 'Roof'. The roof has a beautiful garden on it, but my intention is entirely on Tyga as we walk to the edge of the floor.
'Cameras!' she cries, 'Cameras in our houses in the Victor's Village!'
'That's how they knew!' I curse under my breath – we were foolish to think our houses built under Capitol instruction would be safe from Snow's grasp.
'There aren't any cameras up here. At least, there probably aren't. Where would they position them?'
'How do you know about this place?' I ask, looking out upon the beautiful skyline of the Capitol.
'I came up here whilst I was training for my Games. Discovered it one night when I couldn't sleep. I'm surprised I didn't jump to be honest, but Tobi told me it has a forcefield around it anyway – so I couldn't even if I'd tried. The way he said it – I guess I wasn't the first to ask about it.'
Together we stare out upon the Capitol skyline, a jagged view of skyscrapers and monuments. Lights beam from the buildings like tiny fireflies, but the sky is cloudy, hiding the moon.
'It's amazing how people who built a place so beautiful can use those same skills to cause so much tragedy.' I comment. Tyga nods her head, and I plant a kiss on her cheek. It's sometime before we speak again.
'We'll have to be careful,' I say, 'You heard Snyde. We step out of line and people are going to get hurt.'
Suddenly my mind rushes with a blur of what could have already happened. Pura, Tristan – are they both okay? And Tabs, Kennedy, Shay – it's only now that I realise how many weapons the Capitol has aimed at us. Five people. It wouldn't be hard to reduce that to four if we kiss in public. Three if Tyga doesn't perform well. Two if I step out of line once. And before we know it, everyone we love will be gone and we'll be alone.
All alone in the Hunger Games.
A/N: So, there we go! I wanted to introduce this element of the plotline, because I didn't want this year's Games to be the same as last year's but with different tributes otherwise, in a story like this, it's going to become very repetitive. So, yeah - let me know what you think in the reviews - who do you like/dislike? Are we gonna have a Victor this year? Let me know - and thanks for sticking by me for all the 20 chapters of this story so far!