I suppose I'll start my story with the game maker, because that is the logical beginning. He is after all the man who created this arena, and in turn can be credited for many of the atrocities that occurred during the games. I've already told you that he died shortly after the victor was crowned, and believe me, that was no accident.
I found his body in one of the secret tunnels far beneath the capitol. I won't go into too much detail with the condition of his corpse. To put it mildly, it wasn't pretty. In life, however, he was a wiry man. His bony limbs were stretched at an awkwardly long length. He often had to hunch over when walking through doors. His face itself wasn't all that different from those of the gaunt starving children across the district. Although, the way his skin clung to his bones was entirely natural, unlike his peers in say District Eight. His hair was a thin washed out brown, and it sat in tight perky curls on top of his head the way a rotund balloon might sit on top of a counter. I personally think he got it permed weekly.
Now this head game maker didn't set out to run the Hunger Games. Prior to his appointment of Head Game maker, he had been in charge of overseeing the television streaming to the districts. He must have gotten the job around the 56th Hunger Games because he was one of the veteran staff members. It wasn't the most exciting job. Most of the time all he did was sit in a control room flicking switches to air footage from all the different cameras, but he took the job seriously. After all, as long as everything went off flawlessly he would be invited to all of the best parties, have connections with all the right people, and of course he could always brag about being a part of the most popular show of the year.
You can imagine that when President Snow showed up at his doorstep a month after the 63rd games had concluded, he was pretty surprised. In fact, upon seeing the president, the coffee cup he was holding dropped right out of his hands, spilling all over the brand new welcome mat he had bought for his apartment.
"Hello Ajax," the president smiled glancing down at his feet, which luckily had dodged most of the spilled liquid. Fortunately, the cup was made out of plastic, so there was no broken glass. That would have been a complete disaster. "I thought I might pop in for a visit."
It took poor Ajax a solid thirty seconds to regain his footing. "I- I wasn't expecting you sir," he said holding the door open to let his president inside. Snow strolled into the apartment as if he had been there before, taking off his coat and placing it on the wooden rack in the corner, and brushing off his shoes on the rug. Meanwhile Ajax hurriedly grabbed the coffee mug off the ground, leaving the rest of the mess for later, and started fidgeting with his cloths.
President Snow had come dressed up in a fancy suit and tie, and Ajax, who was just wearing slacks and a white undershirt, felt very under dressed. "Here come into the living room," he said leading Snow through the house into a small room with a modern white sofa and a television in it. A coffee table sat beside the coach, old newspapers strewn across the surface, several with photos of the capitol's latest victor plastered across the front. Ajax cursed himself on the inside for leaving the place so messy.
"Do you want some coffee or tea, sir?" he asked nervously. Just because he wasn't prepared for this visit didn't mean he had to forget his manners.
"Tea please," Snow responded, as he took a seat on the coach. Although Ajax was doubtlessly oblivious to it, the president had an amused glint in his eyes as he watched the man scurry.
Ajax got the tea to the president in record time, fumbling a little with the cup as he poked at the buttons on his hot beverage maker. Snow smiled to himself as Ajax smoothed his white undershirt down before sitting.
"May I ask why you've graced me with your company sir?" Ajax inquired anxiously. The lanky man had many talents, and chiefly among them was his finesse with words. Or as I like to say, his ability to suck up. He would not be a man who others would rally under based on what he preached, but after an hour-long conversation, you'd be hard pressed to say you didn't like him.
"Of course," Snow said sipping his tea. "I'm assuming that you knew Mr. Pollock well. Am I correct?" Ajax nodded. Of course he did. Lucius Pollock was the Head Gamemaker for the past four years. Everyone who worked for the games had come in contact with him at some point or another.
"He's decided to take an early retirement. He had served the games for a long time. It was time for him to move on," Snow went on. The president's voice was relaxed, but Ajax knew better than to take the words for their surface meaning. He had personally asked Lucius if he planned on returning next year just the other week, and the man had responded merrily in the affirmative. There was no way he simply decided to retire.
Ajax felt his stomach churn. No Lucius wouldn't have decided to retire by choice, but he may not have had one. There isn't a living soul who would dare whisper the words aloud, but they all knew the risks that came with the job. A man by the name of Fernando once actually went through the old records and created a statistic for it. About 32% of all Head Gamemakers won't leave the job with their lives. Fernando disappeared shortly after he spread that rumor around the office.
Mentally reliving the past games over in his head, Ajax wondered what had gone so wrong. A boy from District One by the name of Ritz had won. The entire games had gone over exceptionally well. The two tributes from District Five had known each other from home, and came in bitter enemies. They both got to the final three and ended up getting into a four-hour long fight to the death which ended when Ritz showed up killing both of them with one throw of his spear. The capitol had loved it, and the hatred between the other two tributes had put the District Five in its place. It couldn't have gone better for Snow.
Then he realized what it was. Another pair, this time from District Eight had teamed up, and were walking around in the woods talking of revolt. Of course, the two died shortly there after due to a misfortunate earthquake that sent them both off a cliff, and none of the footage ever made it onto the screen, so the situation had been handled. The rest of the world was completely ignorant to the conversation. Ajax himself had been sure of that being that he had been the one keeping the cameras looking everywhere except on the two tributes.
Snow's mouth twitched slightly into a not-so-friendly smile. "It is the head game maker's job to make sure that there is order in the games, Ajax," Snow said bluntly, dropping the formalities and speaking plainly. "Would you consider that conversation conducive to order?"
"No sir," Ajax agreed. "But it never aired, and the two tributes didn't even make it through the first day. I believe that Mr. Pollock handled the situation well. Or am I being too bold?"
"So he did. He contained the problem, so that nothing could become of it. It shouldn't have existed in the first place though. There are ways to make sure that events like these never take place. We have our tributes under constant surveillance, to be sure that none show any symptoms of... bad character. It is part of Mr. Pollock's job to notice it during the pre-game ceremonies. This isn't the first time he has failed to pick up things in his observations. Do you remember his first year? I believe you covered up a mess for him then too?" Snow said, placing his now empty cup of tea on the coffee table.
Ajax simply nodded. He remembered that issue too, when a girl from District Eleven went insane and started screaming obscenities at the capitol, cursing the games. He had stopped rolling the sound from the arena that year, so no one could hear her as Lucius triggered a sudden mudslide that would kill her. He wanted to protest again, defending his former boss even further, but that action seemed out of place. The decision had clearly already been made, and he was no authority to challenge the President of Panem. Anyway, he knew that Snow must have a point in saying all of this. There was some purpose behind this house call. Ajax already had a feeling about what it was. He hoped desperately that he was wrong.
"I've been looking over resumes for Mr. Pollock's replacement. I like hand picking my head game makers," Snow said licking his lips. "There are several good candidates, people who have worked more closely to Mr. Pollock, and know his job better; however, none of them have too much common sense. Has anyone ever told you that these little outbursts are... anti-climatic, or have you just always known?"
"I have always been a fan of the game, sir. I just assumed that our citizens wouldn't like being insulted by teenagers on live television," Ajax said with a charming joking smile. The president returned the gesture, looking quite pleased with the other man's answer. Ajax immediately regretted the words. They were honest, but he didn't want the job. Under no circumstances should he be proving to the president that the man's intuitions about him were correct. He had made it so long in his current position, being promoted could be the end of him. He never wanted such a big responsibility resting on his shoulders.
Of course, by this time, it was too late. "I would greatly appreciate it if you would be this years head game keeper Ajax. I need someone that I can trust running the controls," Snow finally said, throwing the elephant out of the room with both arms.
Ajax opened his mouth, trying to find words. He was not prepared to be dealing with this. If he was on his normal schedule, he'd be putting on his bright green lizard scale suit so he could go out and have some mindless chatter with somebody at the park. He'd be talking about the weather, the latest gossip, or about fashion, but not about the Hunger Games, and not about taking on the biggest responsibility in the capitol- next to the presidency of course. Finally though, the morning coffee he was sipping earlier seemed to penetrate his mind, as he managed a meager- "But sir, I couldn't possibly... I'm just a camera man really, no head game maker."
"I'm sure you can learn. It would be a great duty to your country," Snow said brushing off his pitiful attempt at denying the position. Ajax got the message of course, Snow had already made up his mind. He was going to be head game maker whether he liked it or not. There would be no refusing this "offer".
"Yes a great honor sir," Ajax mumbled compliantly.
"Very good. I'm sure you know that the planning period will begin very soon. I'll expect you to begin working again in two weeks," Snow said standing up. "It's been nice to meet you Head Gamemaker Turner. I do hope that you find success in your new post."
Ajax took the President's tea from him, and helped him get his coat before waving the man good-bye at the front door. He couldn't help feeling a sense of dull shock sweep over him as he watched his President go. What had just happened? This morning he woke up thinking about the newest party he would be attending. Now he was Head Gamemaker Turner. At first all he could comprehend was an uneasy nervousness that was beginning to plague his stomach. Lucius Pollock had truly been lucky to walk away from this job with his life. Ajax had never really been all that lucky. He felt his stomach do a flip- he was not ready for Death yet.
Then the President's parting words echoed in his head. What had he called him? Head Gamemaker Turner. Well, Ajax liked the sound of that. He pictured himself walking around the control room in a pristine suit, being in command of everything and everyone. In his mind's eye he saw his little golden badge pinned tastefully on his right breast. Head Gamemaker Ajax Turner, it would read. Indeed, he liked that very much.
Ajax walked numbly up the stairs into his bedroom and proceeded to finish getting dressed. He took extra time brushing his hair, and fixing up his suit. He even paused to polish his shoes quickly before walking out the door, on his way to the local park. He was an important man now, with an important job, and he was going to look the part. This upcoming Hunger Games was going to go off without a hitch, there was no other option. Ajax Turner was going to create something memorable, that would go down in history through the excited whispers of his peers. By the end of the year, he would no longer be the one who was sucking up. No everyone else would go out of their way to impress him. Yes, Ajax was going to make this Hunger Games his year; the ideas were already buzzing around in his head like a nest of excited bees, all wanting to be the first one to sting.
Unintentionally he quickened his pace, walking a bit faster to the park. He would have the rest of the year to plan for the games, but right now he would spend his time telling every person he could just how important he had become.
A/N: Just a heads up, I'm writeing the reapings in random order. Any who, I hope you like this chapter.