BUT WAIT. THERE'S MORE.
An alternate ending written especially for Cronomon, whose reviews on every single one of my fics (like, how even?) never fail to make my day.
Besides, I felt like writing this.
"Isis, what're you even–" Merete crossed her arms, shooting a glance up at the Head Gamemaker as though worried that Dany was actually paying attention or something instead of drinking her tea. Isis, who was busy manipulating something on her panel, shrugged.
"So it turns out that giant spider venom is actually lethal. And very slow-acting, especially in someone with a slow metabolism."
"What do you mean?"
The camera feed on the dark-haired Gamemaker's panel switched to an aerial view of the District Three boy, who appeared to be sleeping. Beside that, the tracker monitoring his vitals fed a steady stream of data – blood sugar at lower levels than normal due to malnutrition, oxygen levels high, heart rate... dropping. Dropping at a precipitous rate, in fact, arrowing straight down into the red danger zone.
Merete turned to the nearest of her fellow Gamemakers. It happened to be Azuki, who was staring off into space. She poked her. "Hey, can you patch in this feed to the main monitor?"
"He's just sleeping," Azuki protested.
There was an ominous beeping as the boy's heart rate dropped again.
"Right. Getting on it." Azuki swung around, pressing a series of controls. "Geez, Isis, can't you let us know when the giant spiders turn out to be super poisonous?"
"Where would the fun be in that?"
The data feed flatlined.
A few seats down, Rowena scrambled for the cannon button, swearing under her breath. "Isis."
"He died as he would have wanted," Isis deadpanned, picking up her book. "In the middle of a nap."
Jacquelyn opened her eyes, frowning at the giant mutt only a few meters away. It was sleeping, for now, but if it woke – well, it hadn't seemed too happy with her while it was taking a chunk out of her leg, so maybe getting out of here would be a good idea. And soon, too, so she could find the last tribute and slaughter her or him. (She secretly hoped that the last one would be a girl, because none of the boys here had proved worthy of her effort expended in killing them. Boys were lame.)
Problem was, the tourniquet she'd fashioned wasn't quite enough to keep her from bleeding out if she decided to move.
Pssh, a Pirate Queen doesn't let something as petty as bleeding to death stop her.
There was the small matter of actually fighting, of course. She turned an eye to the sky – the sponsors had been very stingy this year, for some reason – and cleared her throat.
"You know what would be really helpful for someone who might have an issue with close range fighting at the moment? A crossbow. Not one of those lame Katniss-bows, an actual thing that shoots armor-piercing bolts."
A pause. Nothing from above – no gentle chimes, no silver parachute. She tried again.
"A Pirate Queen deserves proper weaponry."
Nothing. Well, she would just have to make do, then. She still had her knives (one of them, at any rate).
She braced one hand against the building behind her, preparing to lever herself up despite the stabbing pain that lanced through her leg.
There was a loud crash from somewhere behind her. She froze, straining her ears, and caught the sounds of someone cursing under their breath. After a long pause, the District Nine girl – Harora, right – emerged from around the corner and stopped dead in her tracks, eyes going wide with shock as she took in the giant winged mutt, the copious amounts of blood spattered everywhere... and Jacquelyn.
"Hey there, Nine," Jacquelyn offered.
Harora jerked with surprise. "Jacquelyn?"
She forced a smile. "Yo."
No, really? "What? Here I thought this bleeding leg was just a prop." The other girl was still hanging back, cautious – not good. Jacquelyn had to lure her in closer if she wanted any sort of chance at getting out of this alive. She made as if to stand and plopped back down with a shudder of pain that was not entirely faked.
"I saw this," Harora said. "I saw you bleeding to death, and I saw me––" She clamped her lips shut over the rest of that sentence, but Jacquelyn could guess what she meant well enough.
She swallowed, tasting blood at the back of her throat. (Gotta hurry up.) "There's a knife right here, Nine. Go ahead and kill me, if you think you can." She freed the weapon from her belt and offered it to Harora, hands shaking with the strain of holding it up. It was sort of pathetic, really, but pathetic was the general impression she was going for here.
Harora took a step forward.
Yes. Good. Now keep coming closer, so I can put this knife right through your pretty throat.
"I could leave you here," Harora said uncertainly. "You'll bleed to death in no time at all."
Goddammit, Nine, why won't you cooperate so I can kill you?
"But don't your visions tell you that you have to do this?"
Harora nodded, stepping forward as though drawn by some inexorable force.
"So do it, if you've got the guts."
The District Nine girl paused, brow furrowing, and Jacquelyn decided that, fuck it, it was now or never. Her hand flashed up, sending the knife winging through the air in a blur of silver – right into Harora's throat.
Damn. Her aim was excellent.
"Gotcha," she said cheerfully, hand falling back to her side with a small thump. Harora wavered, gurgling something unintelligible. There was a slightly awkward pause as Harora thrashed a bit in the dirt, and then a cannon fired.
"Pirate Queens always win!" Jacquelyn grinned, head falling back against the wall. She clenched a fist at the sky, sure that her loyal crew was even now cheering her (completely expected) victory. Damn, but her leg hurt. Also the world was starting to spin, so that hovercraft might want to hurry up.
Soon she'd be back where she belonged: at the prow of her ship, at the head of her crew, flying free across the waters of District Four.