My heavy eyelids lift, and I look, drowsily, at the clock. Whoa! Unless I speed up, I'm going to be late for my second day of training!
I pull on some fresh clothes, and run over to the lift, grabbing a croissant as I go.
When I get down, Atala is finishing her brief prep talk, before letting us go do our own thing.
My first stop is plants and berries. The trainer gives a quick introductory talk, and then lets us loose on the touch-screen thing, for a test on what we remember. I pretty much ace it, bar a few sorrel/doc leaf complications. The trainer recommends that I come back to try the test again tomorrow, to see if I can still remember it all then. I will, but now I want to move on to knife training…
By the time lunch is called for, I am pretty good at knife-work. I can certainly do a lot of mutilation, even if my throws won't quite kill someone.
At lunch, I'm alone again, so observe the other tributes for emerging alliances. It looks as though districts 1-4 are teaming up, and the couple from district 10 looks quite intimate, as does the pair from 5. I keep looking, and notice the girl from 7, Pretia Flickerman. She's staring directly at me. So I stare back.
She looks about 14, three years younger than me, and has dark red hair that falls in glossy sheets to her shoulders, ending in a bob.
A strange look covers her face. She turns away.
After lunch, I try swimming. It takes me a long while to get the hang of it, but, after a couple of hours, I am able to swim under water for just below two and a half minutes, and I can travel pretty fast for quite a few lengths, or twice that length, if I go slower. I climb out, dry off, and rest for a short time, before heading over to the gauntlet.
The gauntlet is one of the toughest obstacle courses in Panem (apparently), and it is perfect for training, because it tests your balance, stamina, speed, and even reaction time. Basically, it's a series of bench-like beams that you have to jump across, while trainers swing lightly-padded clubs at your body.
I get started straight away, trying to dodge the bats. In doing so, I lose my balance and fall off. So, I get up, try again. It takes me about twelve attempts before I actually reach the end, and even then, it takes me way longer than it should.
"You're thinking too much!" the trainer calls to me "Try to focus on the speed, rather than the dodging; just run for it!"
So, I do. And, astoundingly, I make it. In half my time! Then, I run it again, and make it, faster again! I run again, faster still. And again. And again! In fact, by the end of the day, I can run the gauntlet in 10% of my original time! Day well spent, if you ask me.
Day 3 of training, and I'm up early. Really early. So early, I have very leisurely breakfast, and take the stairs down to the training centre, but I'm still half an hour early.
However nice it is to just sit around and do nothing, I know that I have to prepare myself; I've seen some those targets, after the boy from four practiced. I'll do the plants and berries quiz, again. I achieve full marks, but I do it again, anyway. Same score.
By now, Atala has arrived, and started her explanation of what will happen today. Basically, we only have the morning to train, because we are spending the afternoon preparing for our interviews, with a short break, when we are called for our private sessions, a district at a time, twelve first. Then, we are dismissed.
I know that there's no way I will cover everything before lunch, so I decide to just go for sword fighting; I won't need much else. Except maybe the ropes course…
It's really, really hard, the ropes course. My strength is tested, just pulling myself up the first wall, let alone the ceiling, and then I have to climb back down, via the cliff-edge climbing wall. I just scrape in at eight minutes – agonisingly slow. So slow, I could easily get hit by a passing arrow, spear or knife; I need some practice. So, I keep going round, and round and round, until I can complete the whole course with in about five minutes. Which is great, but I feel like I'm about to collapse, so I take a break.
When I'm recovered, I head over to sword-fighting, to try it, just for the last hour or so. The trainer says that I have good reflexes, and a good head for the skills needed. I master the sword in half an hour, leaving me with the same amount of time left before lunch. There's not much that I'll get out of any of the training in half an hour, so I decide to observe the other tributes, to try to discover weaknesses, strengths, alliances and rivalries.
Instantly, I spot Kethy and Pescas Crane, of district 2, are crazily good at each of the weapons activities that they are practicing, for capitol citizens. But they're both appalling at the ropes course, so they soon abandon that.
They are joined by the tributes from 4, who are both very strong, with an excellent aim. The boy is especially strong, but awful at the fire-starting activity that he attempted. The girl, however, is extremely agile and accurate, but not quite as strong as the boy. She's a bit better at fire-starting, but not much. Even from a distance, I can tell that she's very smart.
The tiny twelve-year-old from district 5 is agile, able to run the gauntlet before some of the trainers have even lifted their clubs, but she isn't strong, and can barely pull back the bow-string, let alone lift even the smallest weight.
Stian, my district partner, seems more interested in Sefie than training, and seems to spend most of his time in the pool with her.
Octaviel sticks with Nero, her district partner (or rather, he sticks with her), but they're both awful with snares. Good job she's on a permanent diet! Nero is really strong, despite his spindly frame, and swims like a little fish. They actually look quite friendly, now, and, much to my amusement (And their trainer's) Nero kisses Octaviel when she gets full marks on the edible plants test.
Pretia Flickerman, the 14-year-old from district 7, seems to remind me of the little 12-year-old from the 74th games, Rue (Who I liked, but then she died, because Katniss wasn't there for her. I cried.); she can get around those ropes faster than a squirrel! She has other skills, too, though, like being able to hit the 20 metre target with an arrow, straight in the centre, and she's pretty fast on the gauntlet, faster than me, anyway, plus, she seems to have a natural talent for knots…
By lunch, I seem to have all of the immediate threats checked out, and I'm probably ready to tackle an afternoon of interview prep. Except that I've got my private session first, and I've got no idea what to do…
I sit, alone, in the waiting room. Stian hasn't turned up.
"Catriona Dobravilsky" The automatic voice announces, making me jump.
I cautiously enter the training centre, looking up at the game makers. Strangely, they look riveted.
Instantly, I head to the plants and berries station, and complete the test, achieving full marks, causing a round of applause from all of the game makers. Except one. Katniss Everdeen is just sat at the back, a bored expression on her face. Peeta is nowhere to be seen. Have they broken up?! No, idiot, he's just not here! And if they had, it would be all over the gossip magazines.
Behind me, I spot the sword-fighting area, and head over to it. Already, a trainer is there, armed and ready. I grab a sword, and we start to fight.
After a very long time, and a pretty epic battle, I finally get him on his back, with two swords pointed at his chest. I need a drink, fast, but he's soaked in sweat, and panting hard.
I turn back to the game makers, and half-bow.
"Thank you," I say, hoarsely, attempting to be polite "For your consideration."
Then, I leave.
When I get back to the apartment, I drink two bottles of water, and take another with me to my room. I pass Stian's room, and try not to imagine what is going on in there. I fail, and try not to throw up. At least he was having fun, while he missed his private session. He better be ready for the interviews, later. Speaking of…