Author's Note:

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Prolouge:Red Sky's Goodbyes

The sun was beginning to set as Head Gamemaker Lissa Markston walked through the hallways of the tall skyscraper. The large windows let in crimson light from the sunset. Her long red braid swished back and forth as she walked quickly to the elevator and stabbed at the button for the tenth floor, her scarlet-painted, rather short fingernail standing out against the black. The elevator shot upward, rocketing through the shaft. The glass front wall of the elevator made Lissa's reflection stare back at her. Her pale skin and red hair contrasted sharply with her all-black clothes. The eerie red sunset light shimmered through the glass.

Finally, the elevator chimed as its doors parted and slid open invitingly into the hallway. Lissa strode down the hall quickly, the heels of her shoes clicking on the tile. Damn it, they'll know that I'm late, she thought. And I'm the Head Gamemaker. Shame on me. The last part was sarcastic. Lissa had never cared about how she apparently acted just like a district barbarian when it came to her language and choice in clothing. She liked it. She always had loved being different and special. Now, that got her high up, all the way to the position of Head Gamemaker.

The doors to the meeting room opened automatically, and the eyes of every Gamemaker penetrated Lissa. "All right, come to order," she said. Her voice was low and a bit deep for a female's. "First and only order of business," she said as she stood at the podium in the front of the room. Every Gamemaker stared attentively at her. "We need something more for the arena," she called. "We need a special touch to frighten our dear little tributes even more than already." Her piercing blue eyes surveyed the room full of Gamemakers. "Any ideas?"

The crowd shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Lissa sighed and muttered under her breath, "Damn stupid sons of bitches." Luckily, she had no need for a microphone at the moment, so her own was switched off, and no one could hear her murmured remarks about her fellow Gamemakers. They would likely earn her a trip to visit the new president, Coriolanus Snow. She hated him. For one, he was barely thirty years old and in his first year in office. For another, his roses were one of the few things that succeeded in unnerving her.

A Gamemaker raised his hand like a schoolboy. "Yes?" Lissa said, turning on her microphone with a brief sound of feedback. "Any ideas from you?" She tried to smile, but she likely looked like a tiger baring its teeth.

"No," he said. "But could you open one of those windows behind you, if you please? It's becoming rather stuffy in this room." There were nods and murmurs of agreement from a few other nearby Gamemakers. Lissa almost snarled in anger like a muttation, but instead she nodded and smiled politely, turning to open the window. He was right; the air was stale in the meeting room.

As soon as she opened the window, Lissa felt free. She knew that there was a force field outside of the windows for safety measures, but the wind still got in. The cool dusk air swept into the meeting room, dispelling every bit of the stale air. Lissa sighed quietly. The red sky blazing across the horizon -and the entire sky, come to think of it- was almost unnatural. It was beautiful, though, and it made Lissa feel wild, almost like she was in District Four or something like that. The Capitol sky had always looked fake, less real and vivid, but tonight, it was like something had broken through the barrier of perfection. Something wild and free and beautiful that will never be tamed.

I wonder if the tributes will see a sky like that, she wondered, her fingers leaving trails of prints as she slid them down the cool glass and stared out over the city's skyline, up to the red sky. When they're in the arena, I want them to see that sky. A sky of wild red fire like this.

And then she knew what the final touch to the arena -no, her arena- would be.

"I have an idea," she announced, turning back to the Gamemakers. They were all staring at her, waiting. So she pointed at the sky. "A sky like this. All the time, twenty-four-seven. Red like blood." The Gamemakers' eyes lit up in excitement and approval. There was no reluctance. "And we'll make the whole arena smell like smoke and fire."

There, President Snow, Lissa thought, smiling. You'll never know that it's not to unnerve the tributes. But I am the only one that will know the truth: that I want the tributes to have one thing that's free.

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