Karrin took a deep breath and moved into a fighting stance. Suddenly she kicked, breaking the 10x10-inch board the trainer was holding in front of her.
"Good!" the trainer praised her.
"Thanks," Karrin smiled shyly. The trainer was young and handsome His light blue eyes glittered, and his black hair was streaked with orange.
"You are so lucky to be in the games! I wouldn't be surprised if you won!" It was meant to be a compliment, but it wiped the smile right off Karrin's face. She thanked him again without really meaning it.
"Can I break another board?" she asked.
"Wow," Lacy said from behind her. "That's great, Karrin! I'm so proud of you! We should probably try something else, now, though. Hey, Richie? Can we go to a different station?" she called to the District 6 boy, who was sparring with Itzel.
"I'm busy!" he called back, annoyed. That one comment had distracted him and given Itzel an opportunity to pin him down. Richie growled. Itzel let him up and they both began another match.
"Fine," Lacy was just about to call to Kimmie, whom everyone had recognized as the co-leader of the alliance, when Karrin stopped her.
"Don't!" she hissed. Karrin didn't like the fact that Kimmie was partially in control of the group, for Kimmie had made it known as soon as they met how much she disapproved of the "ten-year-old weakling". Karrin couldn't see how Kimmie still thought she was weak; she had broken six boards during the past three days!
Lacy looked at her disapprovingly. "Karrin, I am going to ask her something. I know you don't like her, but I want us to survive this," she said in a hushed voice. "Kimmie!" Kimmie walked over to her. "Can we ask the tributes from District 5 to join us?"
"Absolutely not! It's bad enough that you had to join us!" Kimmie scowled.
"Please, Kimmie! They won't last two days without allies!"
"That's the point."
What's going on?" Richie asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead as he walked over to the three girls.
"She wants to let the bumpkins from District 5 join!" Kimmie explained.
"And...? Have you seen the boy practice with that slingshot? And the girl at the camouflage station? They'll be easy to kill off when necessary, but for now, it might be a good idea to ally with them." Richie raised his eyebrows at his sister.
He turned to Lacy. "They can join. You may ask them, if you like."
Kimmie threw her hands into the air and stalked off to the pickaxe station.
Lacy smiled. "Thank you."
Ed creased his forehead in concentration. Pulling the slingshot back, he released the bullet. The bullet flew though the air and hit the edge of the bulls-eye. The corners of Ed's lips stretched into a wide smile. He pumped his fist into the air. "Yes!"
"Hi," a voice said from behind him. He turned to look at her with hazel eyes, a half-frightened expression on his face.
"It's okay, you can trust me," the girl said, offering him her hand. Ed remembered her name was Lacy. "Do you want to join our alliance?"
He hesitated. "Um, let me ask Greta."
"Okay, take your time." Lacy smiled in a caring way, like a mother smiling at her child.
Ed walked toward his sister, who was at the camouflage station nearby. They talked in hushed voice for a few minutes, then came back to Lacy.
"Okay," Ed told her. "We'll join. Hey, what did the farmer say when he lost his tractor?"
"'Where's my tractor!" Ed keeled over laughing.
That was awful, Lacy thought. But his laughter was contagious. She giggled. "Thank you," she said.
When they got back to the group, they found that the others were taking a lunch break. Karrin was talking to Itzel. Lacy walked closer to them, and Ed realized she was trying to overhear them.
"Why doesn't Jezzabelle talk much? And why does she talk funny?" she asked. Lacy groaned inwardly. Karrin was being very straightforward and more than a little rude. Itzel didn't seem to mind, however.
"Well, Jezzy has two conditions. One is called Asperger's syndrome," he answered. Karrin nodded. She had learned about Asperger's in health class. "The other condition is called jargon aphasia. That's why you can't understand her sometimes." Karrin nodded, but she was frowning.
"Okay," she said. "Thank you."
"What's j-jordan apais-apasa?" Greta asked her brother.
"I'm not sure. We could go ask that man," Ed suggested. Greta nodded, and they went to discuss the subject with Itzel.
Lacy sighed. They're safe. She couldn't bear the other thought: For now.
Even after three days, the shock of seeing Leo as an Avox had not worn off. The first day Astra and Oriana had seen him, they had spent the rest of the day at the dagger station, though Talia had strayed to the bow-and-arrow station without them.
The next day, Talia had persuaded the twins to go to the camouflage station and the fire-building station, but they had still spent at least two hours with Leo.
"Please, girls. We need to train," Talia begged. Then she added quietly, "And maybe, if you guys win, you could bring Leo home."
Both twins' eyes brightened at the thought. "Okay," Astra consented. She let Talia lead them to the weight station. After an hour of practicing, Talia was able to lift a fifty-pound weight, Astra was able to lift a thirty-pound weight and Oriana could lift a twenty-five-pound weight.
"Okay, I think that's long enough," Astra gasped. "Let's take a quick break and then go over to the climbing station."
The threesome walked slowly to the buffet, taking their seats in a quiet, secluded corner.
"Should we ally with Districts 6, 8, 9, and 10?" Oriana asked quietly. Talia gulped, then shook her head vigorously, making her frizzy red hair fly. Her hooded blue-gray eyes looked apprehensive.
"No," she said nervously. "There are boys in that alliance." Oriana and Astra looked confused for a moment. "I-I- I can't stand being around men." Talia looked down at her lap. "You know my brother? Well..."
Talia hesitantly started the story of how her brothers had been in an all-men gang and how the gang had kidnapped her, Maya and her parents because Talia's parents had trespassed on their territory on a walk. Talia's parents had been murdered and Talia had been brutally beaten. The gang hadn't known that they were Damien's family, but neither Dante nor Damien had informed them.
When she finished the story, Oriana looked at her mashed potatoes, cringing, as though she was recalling a painful memory.
"The s-same thing happened t-to me." Oriana whispered wrapping her arms around herself and squeezing her eyes shut. "I w-was a-almost k-k-killed by a Seam g-gang. I almost d-died." Oriana finished, her tone still barely audible. "They forced Astra to watch," she added, biting her lip. Tears escaped from the corners of her clear blue eyes. Astra hugged her.
"It's okay, Oriana. It's over. Relax," Astra comforted her.
"No, it's not! We're both going to die, and we're going into the games with her brother!" The tears flowed more freely now, and sobs wracked her body.
"Oriana, we can win this." Astra said firmly. She looked at Talia. "Can we split up for an hour or two? We can meet up later, but I want to talk to Ana."
"Okay," Talia replied.
Astra and Oriana walked to the rock climbing station. They took helmets and pads and began to climb the forty-foot model of a small mountain. Astra grunted as she heaved herself onto a small resting area and looked up to find that Oriana was already at the top.
"Oh, wow," Astra whispered. Then she looked down. When she saw how high up she was, her eyes widened. She knew that she couldn't fall; the cable around her wouldn't allow that. It didn't make the distance from the ground to where the black-haired girl was sitting any less terrifying.
Astra began to climb higher, her breaths shaking her entire body. Her arms ached, and her palms were sweating. She was gasping for breath by the time she reached her sister at the top of the mountain model.
"How did you get up here so quickly?" she panted.
Oriana smiled slightly and shrugged. "I don't know," she said simply.
"Well, the Careers won't be able to catch you!" Astra smiled.
"Yeah, I guess."
"Are you still thinking about what Talia said earlier? Relax, what happened at home will never happen again."
"How do you know that?" Oriana whispered. "How do you know that D-damien won't come after both of us because we're Talia's allies?"
"Would you not be friends with somebody just because they poached?"
"Then what are you so—"
"Just drop it," Oriana snapped. Astra looked at her, surprised. Her sister never snapped, so what made her do it now? "They raped me," Oriana whispered. "Remember when they knocked you unconscious? They—they—that's what I'm scared of."
Astra could only hug her sister while they cried.
Genevieve looked at Kai, concerned. He had been paler than usual and looking more scared since they had met those kids from Districts 1 and 2. He also seemed more nervous and was being very inattentive to Genevieve.
"Kai? Hello? Kai?"
"Are these poisonous?"
Genevieve began to eat the berries in her hand. Suddenly, Kai snapped out of his trance.
"Eve, no! Those are poisonous! Spit them out!" he exclaimed, grabbing the remaining berries with one hand and pinching his chestnut-haired sister's nose with the other. She obeyed him and spat the berries out immediately.
"Actually, those berries are perfectly edible." the trainer said.
Kai blushed. "Oh," he said.
"Are you okay, Kai?"
"Yeah, Eve. I'm fine."
Genevieve heard footsteps. She turned to see the boy from 7, Teek, and his ally Aldarion.
"Hey. It's Kai, right?" Teek greeted him. "We were wondering if you wanted to ally with us?" Kai looked up.
Kai didn't really want allies, but he did need people to fight beside him and take watch at night. Besides, he didn't need any more enemies besides the Careers. "Um, would you be allies with my sister?" He asked.
"Sure," Aldarion smiled.
Kai took a deep breath. "Okay."
Silmarien squinted. She aimed. She let go of the knife. It soared and hit the edge of the bulls-eye. Good, she thought. She took aim again. When she let go, the knife burrowed itself into the exact center of the target. Her lips curled into a smile. She turned to go to the bathroom and noticed the Careers looking at her. They began to make their way over to where she was standing. She thought about running, but decided against it
The girl smiled "Hi. Wanna join the Careers?"
Ever since the first day, this girl had seemed ditzy. Could she not see that Silmarien hated everyone?
"What did you just say to me?"
"You little bitch—" The blonde moved to slap the District 3 girl, but Silmarien had spent some time at the hand-to-hand combat station. She grabbed Aphrodite's wrist and twisted it. Aphrodite screamed. The trainers rushed over. They restrained Silmarien and began to take her away.
Aphrodite gazed menacingly at Silmarien. "This isn't over, 3. I will find you. And when I do, I will kill you."
A/N: Okay, pretty pointless chapter. But I felt there had to be a Training Day 3, and I was getting bored/lacking material.
1 (BLAST OFF!): Bloodbath!
One more thing: I'm going on a five-week vacation in about nine days, so there probably won't be any more updates for about sixish to sevenish weeks. Sorry :(
Alliances: Aphrodite/Vic/Tye/Rose/Damien (Careers), Richie/Kimmie/Lacy/Karrin/Rosealie/Vivian/Itzel/Je zzy/Greta/Ed, Oriana/Astra/Talia, Kai/Genevieve/Teek/Aldarion, Silmarien (loner), Rowan (loner).