We've all had bad days, and Cornelius Eagle was no exception. In the ten years he'd been Head Gamemaker, he'd been scolded, confronted with stubborn tributes, dealt with malfunctioning equipment, fought with coworkers, humiliated, hit by flowerpots, and blasted halfway across the room, so it was almost second nature for him to face failure calmly. However, there were some things he just couldn't face calmly, and that included being threatened with death.
Six months ago, he and his team were assigned to prepare the arena for the next Hunger Games, which happened to be a Quarter Quell. The project was doomed from the start. Plagued with machine failures and unexpected delays, they couldn't agree on anything except for the premise that each child should have the same number of slips in the reaping bowl in order to even out their odds of being chosen. Finally, impatient with them, President Davis summoned Cornelius to his office and threatened to execute him if the plans weren't ready by next morning.
He didn't want to die, he was sure of that. But before he could be safe, he had to get the plans ready, and how could he do that with all the problems hounding him?
He was so deep in thought that he walked right into the wall and broke his toe. "Shit," he hissed under his breath. Could this bad day get any worse?
When he arrived at the control room around noon, there was no one else there save for Shantalla Llobrera, the new Gamemaker. She was seated at the round table keying something into her laptop, a look of concentration on her face.
"Everyone's at lunch," she said without looking at Cornelius.
Cornelius had had his eye on Shantalla since day one, when she arrived at the control room wearing nothing but a white blouse and gray suit pants. That was a far cry from the majority of people in the Capitol, who wore sparkly outfits and dyed their hair and skin. People said it was because she wasn't from the Capitol at all, but from District Two. But to him, it wasn't just because she came from somewhere different. He felt that such a simple-looking girl probably had something to hide. And it wasn't just her five diamond watches that were her only extravagance.
"Well, why don't you join them?" he asked.
"I can't." That was when he saw them. Dark circles under her eyes, meaning she hadn't had a decent sleep in days. "I'm working on something important here."
"Can I help you? You seem tired."
He sat down beside her and snatched the laptop away before she could protest. What he saw almost made his jaw drop in surprise. There were about a hundred open files on the screen—charts, diagrams, word documents, photographs, and pictures of half-human, half-animal hybrids. In addition to those there was also what looked like an enormous map. One area looked like a giant maze and was labeled "LABYRINTH." Another was colored green and brown and had "PLACE MUTTS HERE" superimposed on it. Red stars dotted the map at random intervals.
But it was only when he saw the white dot in the center labeled "CORNUCOPIA" that he realized what he was looking at.
The arena plans.
"It's not perfect yet," said Shantalla, taking the laptop from his hands. "That's why I'm working overtime here. I want to make an arena that's worthy of this year's Quell."
Cornelius just nodded silently as he watched her work, her small, delicate fingers lightly tapping the keys. He was still amazed at how the girl was able to plan everything singlehandedly while the rest of them bickered without getting anything done. How long had she been working on it? Since she arrived at the Capitol? Or perhaps before she arrived at the Capitol? No matter when exactly she started, she must've worked all night to finish it; hence the dark circles. Yes, he'd been right about the girl. She was hiding something.
But then he suddenly remembered President Davis and his warning. If the plans aren't ready by tomorrow, then I'll have you executed before the end of the week! Shuddering at the memory, he decided to get down to business.
"Um…could you explain the arena to me a little?" he asked.
"To begin with, it's based on Greek mythology."
"Greek mythology? What's that?"
The two of them turned around to see the rest of the Gamemakers standing in the doorway.
"We dropped by when we heard you talking," said Leda Hemingway, Cornelius' real second-in-command. "Is there anything else we can do?"
Shantalla and Cornelius both looked at each other, then at everyone else. Cornelius smiled broadly.
"Yes. As a matter of fact, there's plenty. But first, she will explain how the arena works. All of you come over here."
They obeyed, and pretty soon Shantalla was lecturing them about the basics of her idea. The giant maze that was the labyrinth, winged horses and sirens, Mount Olympus as a volcano, the golden apples of the Hesperides, and other things from the myths. At the end of the lecture, they deliberated on which things to add and which things to remove, and Cornelius delegated responsibilities. Leda and Titus McKnight would be in charge of the mutts. Augustus Swift, Phoebe Shore, and Benedict Atwood would take care of the arena itself. The rest of the work would go to Shantalla and Cornelius. Once everyone had a task to do, they printed out the plans, including the map of the arena, and sent them to President Davis in time for him to announce the Quarter Quell.
Yes, these Games were definitely something. Not only did they save one Cornelius Eagle from execution, they also went down in history for having one of the most unique arenas in the whole history of Panem.
A note of explanation: In this alternate universe, Prim wasn't reaped. Instead, another girl went into the arena with Peeta. They both died and Cato became the victor of the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss eventually married Gale. No rebellion took place.
What do you think of this prologue so far? It's my first SYOT, so I'm sorry for any mistakes. Please review! And submit some tributes! The form and everything else will be on my profile.