I do not own the Hunger Games.
Head Gamemaker Icarus Castillo
I let out a sigh as I lean back in my chair, steepling my fingers. I stare at the huge screen in front of me, a detailed schematic of the arena, and I can't help but feel a certain sense of pride. This set of brightly colored lines, numbers, calculations, and statistics represent more than eleven months of my life. Eleven long, arduous months. But in less than one week, every single iota of my endless work will be broadcast across the entire nation of Panem.
And I intend to impress.
A fidgety woman, dressed in a ridiculous magenta dress that makes her thin frame look like a dragon fruit, walks up beside my chair, holding a paper-thin computer screen in her slender white hands. She nervously clears her throat. "Mr. Castillo?"
"Please, Spicer," I say, allowing myself a small grin. "How many times do I have to tell you? Mr. Castillo is my father's name." I look to her delicate face, and raise my eyebrows. "Call me Icarus."
She places a short spiral of light pink hair behind her ear, and she purses her lips. "It would be disrespectful of me to address you by your first name, sir."
I roll my eyes, and my grin grows wider. She's always so uptight. "I have already given you my permission to call me by my first name, Spicer. I would appreciate it if you took me up on the offer."
Nodding, she says, "Yes, Mr. Castillo." She squeezes her eyes shut, and quickly corrects herself. "Icarus. Sorry."
Standing up from my comfy black chair, I run a hand through my short, naturally light brown hair. I've never been one for all of those fancy dyes and gaudy clothes. "So, what did you need to tell me?"
Spicer gives a curt nod, and hands me the data pad. As I scroll through the reams of information, she says, "All of the platforms are fully operational, every muttation is within three days of maturity, the techs have programmed all but one of the weather manipulation centers, the barriers are all at full strength, the outer camouflage panels are all running at one hundred percent capacity, the launch points are prepped, and the cornucopia is set."
I nod, satisfied. "And the gramophone?"
She raises a light pink eyebrow. "You have no idea how far I had to search for such an antique artifact, let alone persuade the old man to sell it to me. I don't think there is a single stone left unturned in the entire Capitol. But yes, I found one, and it's sitting in the middle of your office."
Smirking, I place my hand on her shoulder. With her ten-inch stilettos, she's almost as tall as I am. "And that's why you're my favorite."
She takes back the data pad and shakes her head with mock-disappointment. "The things you say, sir. I'm beginning to think you have no idea what an actual professional relationship looks like."
Waving my hand dismissively, I return my attention to the screen. "Professionalism is for the boring. And I'm in charge, so I act however I want. I could probably show up in my underwear, and the President himself couldn't do a thing about it because the reapings are in less than a week, and it would be very difficult to find another Head Gamemaker within such a small timeframe. Especially if they're looking for someone who knows this arena as well as I do."
"I know just as much about this Game as you do, Icarus."
I freeze with my hands clasped in front of my mouth, and spin on my heels to face her. A satirical tone enters my voice. "Is that a threat?"
She shrugs vaguely. As she walks away from me, I hear her say, "Just keep it professional, Icarus, and we'll have no problems."
I narrow my eyes and watch her leave. I always love a woman with biting sarcasm.
Up on the schematics screen, one of the lines switched from orange to green, and I know that the techs have finally gotten the last weather manipulation center online. Excellent.
"Rory, get me a line to the head technician."
The fat blue man in charge of communications gives me the thumbs-up, and I press my index finger against the radio device that's wrapped around my ear. "Helena, do you read me?"
The head technician's gravelly voice echoes in my ear, "Yessir."
"Schematics indicate that Weather Device Eight is now online. Is this true?"
I press my tongue against my teeth, and take a sharp breath through my nose. "Alright. How are the hovercraft looking?"
"The big one or the little ones?"
"All of them."
"Well, the big one has a glitch in the camouflage, specifically the image redundancy generator, but we should have it patched up in a couple of hours. The little ones are doing fine, though."
"And the hoverboards?"
"They all check out, sir. Lewis was having a good time with one earlier, says it's a shame that these toys have to be wasted on the district dogs."
I lean back on my heels and fold my arms in front of me. I've never enjoyed using slurs; they always leave a bad taste in my mouth. "Yeah, well. Dogs or not, I think they should get to have some fun before they die."
A moment of silence buzzes on the other end, until she finally responds, "I see what you're saying, sir."
"Good to know we're on the same page. If everything else is in order, I'll let you get back to your work. Report back if anything catastrophic happens."
Cutting off the connection, I place my hands behind my back and saunter over to the large window that overlooks the city. My office takes up the entire sixty-forth floor of our high-rise, and from here I can see the entire sunlit Capitol: every shining tower, every gleaming window, every hovercraft zooming through the air, every street, every alleyway, every piece of beauty and every dirty little secret that the leadership would like to keep hidden. Such a grand paradox, the Capitol is. All of its inexorable glory, fed by the labors of the unworthy and the blood of their children.
And then here I am, Icarus Castillo, Head Gamemaker of the Sixty-Fourth Hunger Games, standing above it all. I was appointed to entertain these people, while simultaneously pounding the cold truth into the districts: that the Capitol will always triumph over them and their petty attempts at freedom. Whether or not that rings true, I must fly the flag of propaganda, or the President, no matter what I tell Spicer, will find a way to replace me, probably one that involves my untimely and excruciating death. Which isn't something I look forward to; I am only twenty-seven years old, and I aim to survive for at least another five decades.
When they nominated me for Head Gamemaker, I was shocked. I previously worked as a secondary arena designer; an unremarkable job, but it allowed me to suggest my designs directly to the Head Gamemaker, and a couple of my ideas even made it into the final plans. But never did I expect the President to pass the baton of ultimate responsibility to me the following year.
My first instincts told me to say no, and reject the nomination altogether. The job is just too… inhumane. But the President very quickly corrected my thinking with a low-spoken threat: either I accepted the position, or some unsuspecting bystander would find my mutilated body hanging from the edge of an overpass. Needless to say, I heartily thanked him for the wonderful opportunity and immediately set to work on my designs.
I decided to have some fun with my involuntary job, and over the last eleven months I've grown to love my arena. It's as close to pure creation as any human will ever get: the ability to design whatever I want, with whatever special touches I deem appropriate, and if I don't like the desk jockey working three computers down, all I have to do is snap my fingers and he's gone. But everything I've made is tainted.
My arena, my creation, has one sole purpose: destruction. My arena is a paradox, just like the Capitol.
Spicer grabs my arm, breaking me out of my thoughts. Her bright green eyes are wide with apprehension, and I know that something must be wrong. Two words escape her mouth: "He's here."
True to her word, I turn to watch as the dragon himself walks in, surrounded by an entourage of well-armed security guards. He's dressed in a black tuxedo, complete with a red bow tie, and he's combed back his salt-and-pepper hair as he always does. Wearing a mirthless expression, he halts in front of me and I bow in respect. Actually, it's more out of fear than anything else, but I'll never admit that to him.
"Everything is going according to plan?" President Snow asks, his cold eyes searching my face.
"Yes, Mr. President. Everything is right on schedule." I pause, biting the inside of my lip. "You had to see me in person to ask me one question?" The image of President Snow stuffed inside of an elevator with ten of his security guards doesn't seem right.
His eyes narrow. "Watch your tone. I prefer to see my subordinates in person." A stony grin crawls up the sides of his face. "It keeps them honest."
I will believe that, actually. His gaze cuts through me like a scalpel, searching for any information that he can use to his advantage.
"So tell me, Mr. Castillo," he says, his words dripping with condescension, "will the Sixty-Forth Games live up to the hype?"
I smirk, and holding up both arms, I gesture to the midday sky. "It's all up in the air, Mr. President."
Thank you, Cashmere67. If not for you, this entire idea would still be an amorphous blob floating around on the outer periphery of my mind.
I finally have all of the tributes! Thank you to everyone who submitted.