A/N: Thanks to Mercoorio, Vykktor and mangesboy01 for reviewing the last chapter! The support is appreciated :)
I've had a couple of people ask exactly how the dual narrative of this story is going to pan out during the Games, so hopefully this chapter will help address those issues.
I hope you enjoy today's chapter :)
POV: Ludovic Robertson (16), Mentor for the Male Tribute, District 4
The Hunger Games Headquarters, The Capitol
9.59 am, Sunday 21st July (Day 1 of the Games), year of the 67th Hunger Games
I was woken early this morning in the Training Centre by Flavius, just after dawn. For some reason I was reminded of him doing the same thing on several occasions during last year's Games, but the feeling quickly passed. I joined Flavius and Finnick for breakfast early in the day before return to my room to shower and get changed quickly. Apparently the tributes aren't the only ones with an early start on the first day of the Games.
It's just after eight in the morning when Flavius escorts Finnick and myself down the elevator to where a car is waiting for us on the ground floor, his final act as escort unless one of our tributes wins the Games. We both thank him and bid him farewell until next year, knowing that despite everything, the odds of one of our tributes winning is slim. Maybe, because of our Career status, the odds of a victor hailing from District 4 increases from 8% to around 20%, but really, it's not likely to happen. Still, if we're ever going to get a good chance, this is the year.
After Flavius left, we both got in the back of a long black car that escorts us through the streets of the Capitol to the Hunger Games Headquarters. When we arrive, I see that it's a large building with an ornate entrance, that serves as the home of both the Gamemakers and the mentors during the Games themselves. As we stepped out of the car, two Capitol attendants came to greet us and led us through the main foyer - where, Finnick told me, mentors come to meet sponsors and collect funds - and up to a large room on the third floor where we will be based for the remainder of the Games.
The Mentor's Room (that's actually what it's called, apparently) is bright and spacious, which a combination of skylights and white lights in the corners and on the walls making the room feel fresh and clean. It's around the size of a small conference room, and it has two banks of desks arranged in semicircles in tiers, twelve seats on each. Each set of desks has a bank of computer screens along the back, and a touchscreen on the desk itself that we can use to change the images on our screens, look for items to purchase for our tributes, take a look round the arena using various camera angles, keeping on top of exactly where our tributes are. At the front of the room where all the mentors can see is the standard TV broadcast of the Games projected onto the wall, so that we can listen to the general broadcast if nothing is happening with our tribute.
Finnick and I were almost the first to arrive in the Mentor's Room, excluding the mentors for Districts 3 and 9, and Blight, who is mentoring both tributes from District 7 as the only living victor from his district. For a few minutes I made small talk with a few of the other victors, who all give me words of luck on my first year, although oddly enough, I didn't feel too nervous. There'll be plenty of time for later. There is nothing that any of the mentors can do during the bloodbath except watch, so I needn't fret about this morning. After all, with Alec, I've ended up with a pretty good lot for the morning.
Slowly as the time draws closer to ten o'clock and the start of the Games, the room fills up until everyone has arrived, and the whole room is buzzing with anticipation for the start of the Games. I sit between Finnick and Wiress, who is mentoring the girl from District 3. I realise that I don't even know the girl's name. Phoebe. I read it from our nameplate tagged to the desk where we sit.
Finnick is in conversation with Jared, the aging man who is mentoring the boy from Five. I can hear Haymitch and Chaff passing about a bottle of liquor and talking far two loudly on the row of desks behind me. They seem to have decided on a drinking game in which every death in the arena merits a shot. I think it's safe to say that they'll both be completely hammered within the next twenty minutes, the fools. Then again, I suppose sometimes you do have to laugh about it, because the alternative is so horrific.
Finally, a hush falls over the room as Caesar Flickerman announces that the tribute have entered the tubes and are on their way up into the arena. As they surface into the arena, the screens on the desks in front of us come into life, offering close-ups of our tributes. I watch as Alec, dressed in a sky blue jumpsuit, struggles to comprehend the arena around him. Having the aerial shot available, I can see that the twenty-four tributes are within a circular clearing ringed by steep cliffs, dark tunnels providing the only escape from the starting area in many directions. On one of the screens in front of me a map of the arena is displayed, although it only shows the parts of the arena that a tribute has seen; we discover it as the tributes do. However, what I can see is that the starting are is only a tiny circle of dirt near the centre of a vast sea of black. This arena is certainly extensive; possibly ten miles across. However, depending on the amount of tunnels, there might not actually be that much of the arena to be explored. I'll need to wait for more info on that one.
"This could throw a spanner in the works," Gloss calls across the desk at me, and I nod back. Dark, enclosed spaces. Not exactly where a group of Careers can thrive.
"Unless there's more to the arena," I call back.
"I hope so," he adds. "You agree, Blight?" Gloss asks the man from Seven, but he's too absorbed in looking at his own tribute's starting position to pay much attention to us, and merely shrugs.
I return my attention to Alec and see that he's between Orion and Thomas, the small boy from District 12. Not bad, not good, either. i'm looking up at the TV broadcast on the wall, scanning around the other tributes when Finnick points out something on my screen.
"Look," he says, pointing out Vincent and Gabriel for me almost effortlessly. "It'll be easy to spot everyone this year; we're all in our own district's colours." He's right. I quickly spot both tributes in sky blue, Alec and Marline, on opposite sides of the cornucopia, unable to know each other's whereabouts. Looking around for other threats, to Alec, the only other Career I manage to spot is Ashe, just as the gong rings, signalling the start of the Games.
Suddenly a hushed quiet falls over the Mentor's Room as everyone become immersed in the activities of their own tributes. All the mentors have been provided with a pair of headphones through which they can listen to what their own tribute - or any other tribute, for that matter - is hearing, rather than the standard broadcast, with commentary often covering up vital conversations. Whereas the viewing public can afford to watch such interactions at ten minutes' delay, seconds count for the tributes in the arena, so we need to be on top of things at all times here in the Games Headquarters. I slip on mu own set of headphones and immerse myself in the bloodbath.
It's a strange feeling, watching the bloodbath, because I feel more like a part of it than I ever did back before the reaping. Maybe it's because I've played a part in - and killed during - a bloodbath before, and I understand the situation that the tributes are in more, or just because it genuinely matters to me who gets out alive this time around, but I find myself attracted to the screen more than ever before. It's horrific, what I'm watching, but I just can't bear to turn away. I have to watch for Alec.
At the start of the Games, I watch as he instantly charges at Orion, knocking him to the ground and doing a decent job of putting him out of the game within the first twenty seconds. I can see that it's broadcast on the big screen at the front of the room, and I can see the victors around me - particularly those who mentor non-Career districts, and have paid little attention to the Career Alliance up to this point - watching on in shock and excitement at the fact that the first battle of the Games is Career vs Career.
Looking elsewhere as Alec leaves Orion bleeding out on the floor, I can see that all but the two tributes of District 3 are heading into the melee at the cornucopia. Just from that first decision of fight or flight, I know that the death count of the bloodbath will be higher than usual. I guess everyone felt rather dependent on the supplies at the cornucopia after looking round the arena. I don't blame them, really. I wouldn't want to take my chances out in the tunnels with no supplies, either.
Even as Alec is kicking Orion's head in, Amethyst of District 1 is the first to reach the cornucopia, bagging a large red backpack for herself and pulling a sword from the relatively small pile of weapons, fleeing the scene just as Gabriel arrives. Marline and Ashe are hot on his heels, though, and Marline pulls Gabriel back, allowing Ashe to the supplies first. She bags a bow but Gabriel has powered out of Marline's hold long before Ashe can put an arrow through him, and Ashe gives a knife to Marline and the two split from the cornucopia, knowing that Gabriel won't hunt them down until he's got his hands on a weapon.
Finnick's now on his feet next to me, screaming at Cashmere to get answers for why Amethyst wouldn't help her two allies, but Cashmere looks just as confused and frustrated as my best friend does. As for Amethyst, she's the first tribute to be stocked with supplies and make an exit into the tunnels. I guess she's going it alone for now. I laugh to myself as the other mentors look up at the scene Finnick is causing, and I focus back on Alec as he runs straight into Ashe. He swings at her but she ducks his effort, and already has an arrow loaded as she turns. Alec drops to the floor and she fires above him, but before she can get a second arrow prepared, Thatch, the boy from District 11, takes the Career down and Alec scrambles away towards the cornucopia.
"You had a lucky escape there, kid," Amadeus Cato calls across at me, giving me a knowing smile as almost everyone else has abandoned the screens and is watching Cashmere and Finnick (metaphorically) tear each other's hair out. I smile back and look at the screens again as Alec grabs hold of Jack, the boy from Eight, and smashes him into the wall of the cornucopia, killing him instantly. Cecelia, his mentor, shouts something obscene at me, and I laugh, all part of the banter that constantly flies across the Mentor's Room. It might be dark to make light of such terrible events, but it's better to laugh about it than consider the alternative.
Then, as Alec spends a moment regrouping with his allies and grabbing weapons, I take a moment to look around me. Several mentors are already gathering their things and preparing to leave - once you're tribute is out of the Games, you've allowed to leave the Headquarters, although many stay for the whole Games for support. Such is the case with Haymitch, who is still lounged back in his seat chatting with Chaff, a glass of liquor in one hand. Both his tributes are already dead; one taken out by Amethyst during her early escape from the bloodbath, the cut in half by Gabriel's longsword. Chaff's still here, too, although Thatch lies dead on the dusty floor of the arena. Remembering Thatch, I see that Ashe has dealt with him already using a dagger that I didn't know she had, and is guiding Marline into the tunnels. I guess Finnick's tribute is making it out of here alive. He looks relieved beneath his red, angered face as he sits back down to watch his tribute's escape. His voice is ragged from shouting and he's in a bad mood. I don't attempt to talk to him. It just took four victors to get him back in his seat.
Cecelia and Seeder are already clearing out, too, but they're beaten to the door by Brutus, who storms out of the Mentor's Room spewing profanities in a fit of pique. I glance back at the screens to see Orion lying dead on his back, Vincent's spear buried deep in his stomach. I bet there's seven or eight casualties already.
By now the bloodbath is almost over, as I watch the pair from Five make a dash into the tunnels and see Alec and his allies finish up proceedings at the cornucopia itself. As I count up the bodies in the dirt Harvey, the mentor of the girl from District 8, makes a fuss as she gets up to leave, calling out, "Thanks a lot!" at Blight as she storms out past a laughing Haymitch. I guess Vincent did more damage during the bloodbath than I thought he did. I will admit, I wasn't paying too much attention to him in the early stages.
Now that the fighting is over, I've got a few minutes to stretch my legs and converse with both Gloss and Blight about mentoring strategies while our tributes gather supplies and wait for the bodies to be collected from around the cornucopia. As Gabriel sits down for a nap in the late morning sun, a question comes to the front of my mind.
"What happens when we need to sleep?" I ask Finnick. "I mean, we can't just keep watching our tributes forever, can we? What happens then?" Finnick doesn't answer immediately, but reaches under my desk for a drawer than I never even noticed, and slipped out a packet of small blue pills.
"Take one of these every six hours," he tells me, "and you'll never grow tired. Sure, at the end of the Games it'll catch up to you and you'll probably sleep for three days straight, but during the Games, you'll constantly be alert."
"Thanks," I say, placing the tablets cautiously on the table. I guess I'll take my first one later in the afternoon. I was going to ask more about the pills, like whether there are any side-effects or anything (I'm always unsure about using foreign substances unnecessarily), but before I can do, Gloss shouts at me to watch the screens. I look up to see Alec chasing the girl from District 6 across the clearing towards the cornucopia, where she grabs a backpack and escapes both Alec and Vincent by throwing as knife through Alec's shoulder, causing it to bleed severely.
"Should we send in something to help him?" I ask openly to both Gloss and Blight, but also to Finnick. In the end, it's Gloss who answers me.
"There's no need to," he says. "It's only a minor wound, and they've already got a first aid kit. The three of them should be able to patch him up pretty well without our assistance. It'd be a waste of money to send something in now."
"Speaking of money," Finnick adds with a smile. "We need to actually get out there in the foyer and collect some before we can send anything to anyone." He's got a point. So far in the Games, we don't have a penny to spend on our tributes. "But that can come later," he says, gesturing to my screen, where I can see Vincent bandaging Gabriel's shoulder while Gabriel paces around them thoughtfully. I slip on my headphones to listen to their conversation.
"It's clear to me that it's going to be harder to protect the supplies at the cornucopia than we had previously anticipated," Gabriel muses. "I suggest that we should just abandon it and begin hunting the others out in the arena."
"Look," Alec counters. "We've got no idea where any of the tunnels lead to, and we know where we are here. Plus, we've got good visibility to protect us from ambushes."
"We might know where we are," Vincent adds, "but everyone else knows where we are, too."
"That's true, but there's still a lot of stuff here for people to take."
"Most of it is supplies rather than weapons," Gabriel explains to Alec. "If everyone is well-supplied, it doesn't matter to us. The playing field may be kept even in that way, but we are still stronger, better armed and more numerous than any other group in the arena. These Games are ours to lose. So what if some of the other tributes gain a few extra loaves of bread or another dagger. Everything there is the leftovers. All the best bits of kit are already taken. So let the others have it, for all I care. We've got what we need. We should move on."
"I agree with Gabriel," Vincent adds, and Alec sighs.
"OK, fine, we'll go," he concedes. "But let's wait until night, as we had previously planned. And until then, there's a whole pile of supplies up there to guard. It shouldn't be hard to hold onto them for another few hours if we actually stay at the entrance to the cornucopia."
"You're right about that," Gabriel smiles, running his fingers loosely along the blade of his longsword. "And we may as well check through the supplies once more before we abandon all of them, to see if there's anything that we've missed."
"Sounds like a plan," Alec smiles.
"Well, we're just about done here," Vincent adds, securing Alec's bandage in place on his shoulder. "Let's get to work, lads."
A/N: What did everyone think about a chapter from a mentor's perspective? None of the others will recap what happens in Alec's chapters, but it's always nice to get a second perspective on the bloodbath if possible, as so much always goes on.
Anyway, let me know what you made of it via review. As ever, I'm welcoming constructive criticism :)