Prologue: The Missing Nail
"Guys, we have a problem."
Most of us have been on edge ever since we heard the cannon go off right after Katniss and Johanna left, and there's now this heightened feeling of anxiety that never leaves my gut.
So naturally, when we hear Chaff's voice with no prelude to his arrival, Finnick and I jump, and Finnick almost sends a trident hurtling in his direction before recognition sets in.
How can someone that big sneak up on us like that?
Chaff ignores our surprised reactions. He's out of breath and covered in blood, though judging from the apparent lack of injuries, it's not his.
"What's wrong?" Finnick asks. " I thought you agreed to keep separate from us to keep watch."
"I did, and that's what I'm here about. Just came across the pair from Two. Managed to ambush them and kill Brutus, but Enobaria escaped. I think she may be headed in your direction. Came across the wire and followed it up. Speaking of which: where's Jo and Fire Girl?"
Almost in response to his question, the wire along the ground jumps back to us in coils, signifying that it had just been cut. The feeling of anxiety quickly shifts to dread, then full-blown panic. I never should've agreed to splitting us up.
I scream out Katniss' name and start to run towards her before immediately being tackled to the ground by Finnick.
"Chaff, I need somebody to watch over Peeta and Beetee. I'm going over to catch up with the girls. No cannons sounded yet, which should be a promising sign." Before I can say anything, he bounds off swiftly like an deer in flight. After he leaves, the only thing that can be heard is Beetee, either humming a tune to himself or muttering a disturbingly wide assortment of profanities, as he works on the tree; apparently he's oblivious to the fact that his plan had just been sabotaged.
I get up and try to follow Finnick, but Chaff's arm wraps around my torso, pinning me in place, which is actually impressive for someone with just one hand. I struggle against him and scream out Katniss' name some more.
"Get off me!" I snarl.
"Finnick told me to watch over you guys, and I can't do that while your apparently unarmed ass goes running off into the woods."
Oh yeah, Beetee still has my knife…
Despite that inconvenient fact, as well as my unwillingness to hurt Chaff after all that camaraderie we built up during the training, I'm running out of options. I attempt some of the wrestling moves I know to get out of a lock, but that just makes him tighten his hold.
"Dammit boy, quit your squirming! I'll cripple you if I have to."
I give him a mirthless smile. "You wouldn't dare injure me."
"No, but I could probably break that fancy leg of yours.
"Which would be a shame when the alliance is over; I'd hate for there to be no challenge when I hunt you down."
The hasty way at which he adds the last part makes me suspect that it's just for the benefit of the audiences. If that's the case, then the suspicion that I had early on in the Quell is correct: there's no intention to end the alliance. Their goal is to help keep us, or at least Katniss, alive even if it results in their death. That's all well and good, but what do they have planned?
Also, allies or not, they are deluding themselves if that's going to keep me away from her.
I narrow my eyes at him. "I'd like to see you tr—"
Beetee's shout interrupts our impending scuffle, and we are graced by the sight of him running past us. I'm actually a bit surprised that he could run so quickly with his physical build, not to mention the wound he received. There is an expression on his face that's a mixture of fear and… elation?
All we do is just stand there awkwardly and gawk at his retreating figure as Chaff mutters, "The hell…"
Cold realization dawns on me: We're standing right next to the tree…
Before I can warn Chaff that we really do need to get a move on, lightning strikes and the ensuing blast knocks us both into oblivion.
"Volts, tell me why I shouldn't wring that scrawny little neck of yours."
I wake up to the sound of Chaff gruff voice and feeling like a sack of flour is lying on top of my head.
Looking around, I see that Chaff and I are in hospital beds on a hovercraft. Though we have some tubes stuck in our arms, we aren't restrained. Judging from that, as well as the comfortable way that Beetee is sitting in front of us, my initial fear that we were taken by the Capitol begins to recede.
Beetee, who's patched-up and in his own hospital gown, looks confused. "I don't see what the issue is. I got you all out, didn't I?"
"And forgot to mention the little fact of there being an exploding tree?"
"Actually, it wasn't the tree that exploded. It was the for—"
"I don't give a damn if it was Bread Boy who exploded! You should have warned us."
"But I did."
"Shouting 'Got it!' doesn't qualify as a warning." Chaff is growing louder and more exasperated by the moment; he actually looks like he's ready to give Beetee a complete beat-down.
At this, Beetee simply sighs: "If I explained the plan in more detail, it may have blown our entire cover, which would have meant that none of us would have been able to escape."
Chaff's anger begins to dissipate, though he still seems to be more than a bit displeased. I decide to take that opportunity to ask Beetee some questions of my own.
"So that whole part about the electrocuting the water was a feint?"
"Correct." Beetee seems to be pleased that there is a little less hostility directed towards him this time. "The actual plan was to utilize the lightning strike to overload the force field to allow for the hovercraft to pick us up. That is why I needed to utilize your knife, and that is why Plutarch set-up the arena the way it was and included the spool of wire."
"You mean to say that the Head Gamemaker was helping us escape?"
"I was indeed." Plutarch Heavensbee says as he comes into our room. Following him is Haymitch, who's looking strangely sober.
They decide to cut to the chase and give me the picture of what's going on: The underground movement to oppose the power of the Capitol. The effect we had when we were about to eat the berries, during our victory tour, and when I dropped that bombshell during the interview. Our symbolic nature. The plan to break us out of the Quarter Quell arena, including the participation of many of the victors plus the Gamemaker. The fact that now most of the districts are in full-scale rebellion; many are calling it the "Mockingjay Rebellion". That District Thirteen is indeed not only destroyed, but is the head of the said rebellion. And that we are headed there right now.
"That's great! By the way, is Katniss doing alright? The line cut had me worried, but I didn't hear any cannon fire."
When no one responds, a knot of growing unease forms in my stomach.
"Haymitch, where's Katniss?"
He attempts to skirt around the question in a matter-of-fact tone. "We wanted to grab both of you, as well as well as Beetee due to his technical know-how. So when you separated—"
"Where. Is. Katniss?" My voice gains a hard edge to it as the knot builds up tension.
"… She was captured by the Capitol, as were Johanna, Finnick, and Enobaria. I'm sorry."
Haymitch barely finishes his sentence before my vision clouds, and I lunge forward out of bed with the expressed intent of wrapping my hands around his neck. Instead, I simply end up falling face-first on the floor due to the now-obvious lack of my left leg. Before I can get myself up, something pumps sedatives through the tube in my arm. It takes effect almost immediately, making me unable to move effectively from my prone position.
As I'm hauled back onto my bed, I manage to muster up enough energy to scream repeatedly, "YOU PROMISED!"
The last thing I hear, as unconsciousness takes me and my screams fade into whimpers, is Haymitch's somber voice: "Yeah, I did. I promised her that we would get you back alive."
A/N: Yeah yeah, I know… The premise (Peeta and Katniss switching places for Mockingjay) is about as original as a Chinatown Rolex. Still, it's a concept I thought would be interesting to tackle. Katniss and Peeta have drastically different personalities; therefore it makes sense that both the Capitol and Thirteen, respectively, may treat them differently. That in turn, would effect things down the road. Whether for better or worse is something that's up in the air. What I don't wish to do is merely a palette swap of Mockingjay.
Of course, things initially will stick pretty close to script, but I hope for divergence down the road. Also, for the sake of homage, there will be a collection of stuff that justifiably plays out like canon in spite of the nail, but even that will likely have a twist to it.
If you're expecting a KatPee romance story, you'll probably be disappointed. Not saying there won't be elements, especially considering certain character dynamics, but it would probably constitute less than 5%.
Story may be a bit exposition-heavy, though hopefully concentrated towards the beginning.
This is war, so there will be detailed scenes or certain themes some may find upsetting. Also, Peeta's a stressed-out adolescent boy surrounded by soldiers and guys like Haymitch; foul language is pretty much something to be expected.
In any case, here's to a potentially interesting ride.
Feedback (reviews, PMs, etc...) would be much appreciated.