Interviews Part One
The theatre had a pulse tonight. Chatter filled its walls and the hot breath of a thousand beings circulated under the hot television lights. The tickets for the nosebleed seats had sold out three years ago. It was the twenty-four tributes' final right of passage before they marched bravely to their deaths, and the entire Capitol wanted a chance to see their soldiers off. Only the fortunate got their chance.
Minerva Callaghan sat above them all, of course, and her presence sent chills down the spines of those who were attentive enough to notice her. And the woman wasn't one to go unnoticed. Her gaze was cold, her tongue quick. For the most part, she seemed to be natural at first glance. The signs of her plastic surgery were subtle. Her black curls were a deeper shade of night than the color she'd been born with. Her ice blue eyes had been enhanced so that they were so vibrant, it was unnerving.
Unlike many of her predecessors, she did not soak in the commotion in the theatre. She didn't care for the frivolous worries of the Capitol citizens. They were beneath her concern with their petty interests. She was an artists of the most talented sorts. Her Games were her masterpieces with the tributes as her medium. Last year, she had found her beauty in serendipity. She allowed her tributes to fight for their lives on their own right, and of course, the most talented fighter won. This year, however, she was ready to step into her role as god. She would hand pick the winner herself, and that was why tonight was important. It would be her last chance to observe them before they were sent spinning to their various ends.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed in the audience, and an excited hush filled the air. Music blared as Caesar Flickerman spun in his chair, making the most of his intro. Minerva's lips curled as she noted his royal purple hair- how ironic of him.
"Ma'am, I've got the files you requested," a nuisance bothered her from her left. She took the papers wordlessly before shooing her assistant aside. Around her, she could hear her underlings chatting. Only the department heads were allowed in the box seat during the interviews, as per tradition. Sometimes she wished that she could send even her most trustworthy co-workers away. She liked examining her chess pieces alone.
"Well, I'm sure you're all ready for me to bring out our special guests, now aren't you. So without further adieu, let me introduce to you the one and only Porcelain Braavos," Caesar called out. The crowd went wild as Porcelain emerged from back stage. Her stylist had her dressed in a frilly pink dress that cut off at the knees. Her make-up was red based, with a copious amount of pink blush had been applied to her white cheeks, and her lips painted a deep scarlet color. She carried herself like a young girl as she walked over to the interview seat. Minerva didn't miss the clever gleam in her eyes though.
"You look just gorgeous today Ms. Braavos," Caesar crooned.
"Oh, not as gorgeous as the other tributes dear," Porcelain rebuked, waving him off.
"Somehow I don't believe that," he smiled. "But anyways, how's your stay been so far in the Capitol?"
"It's been just darling. Everyone here has been, so... so classy. I've really appreciated that," Porcelain said. With her hand, she pushed a lock of red hair behind her ear.
"Well it's good to hear everyone's been treating you nicely. I'm sure that's nothing new for you though. Everyone back in District One must have loved a sweet girl like you," Caesar said.
"Oh, they did," Porcelain assured him. "It's just that at home, I'm just another girl. As a tribute though, you're treated like a princess. It's a nice change."
"I'm sure you're going to prove to everyone that your someone that shouldn't be treated lightly though. A score of eight is not so easy to get," Caesar prompted.
Porcelain's lips stretched into a ruthless smile, and her eyes lost a certain aspect of kindness. Minerva's lips twitched into a smile. This is a hint of the girl she showed them during her private sessions. "I'll just say that underestimating me would be a mistake," she said. For a minute she let her unnerving words settle, on the silent room. Then she let out a trill of a laugh, loosening up the tension in the room perfectly. She was an expert at manipulating the crowd. She was showing them just enough of her harsher side to make her seem threatening, but also enough of her sweeter half to make her seem clever.
The buzzer went off after another few light exchanges, and Porcelain stood, making her way over to the line of chairs on the left-wing of the stage. Next up, Rubin Royal strode out onto the stage. He looked like the spitting image of his grandfather as he took Caesar's hand.
"Rubin Royal. I must say, I'm having a bit of deja vu here. I never had the honor of interviewing Price when he was a tribute, but just the other year he went out of his way to have a nice chat with me. You're very much like him," Caesar said.
"I try," Rubin said with a shrug. "He was a great man, taught me everything he knew."
"You were close then?"
"I'm sure everyone here knows my father Marble Royal right?" Rubin asked.
"He came in third in the 49th Hunger Games. I remember him," Caesar nodded.
"I never got to meet him, but yes, he died in the Hunger Games that year. With my dad gone though, my grandfather took me and my mom in. Grandpa Price basically raised me as his own. It's been hard this past year without him, but I'm going to win and make him proud," Rubin said. The crowd mumbled their approval. Price was a popular victor in his day. He kept his head after he won, and often went out of his way to mingle with the citizens, signing autographs and such.
"How very noble of you," Caesar remarked. "I'm sure that no matter what, both he and your father will be very proud of you."
"That means a lot," Rubin smiled.
The crowd protested when Rubin's session ended and he had to take his seat beside his District partner off to the side. Clearly he was quite popular. Their excited buzz was rekindled as Alexis Hayden made her way out onto the stage. It was clear her stylist was aiming for sex appeal with the girl's halter style pink dress. One of her Gamemakers let out a loud low whistle for the girl, causing her to wink at the audience. They went wild.
"Be professional Gregor," Minerva hissed.
"Sorry Ms. Callaghan," Gregor mumbled back.
When Minerva returned her attention to the stage, she'd missed the introductions. "So, tell me, is there a significant other back at home?"
"Yes," she answered, to the audience's dismay. "His name is Nolan. I'm going to make him proud in the arena. Then when I get home, he'll be able to brag to everyone that he's dating one of the greatest victors of all time."
"Lucky boy," Caesar said in good humor. "Do you have a strategy for the arena?"
Alexis nodded, a cruel smirk twisting onto her face. "It's not that complicated. I'm going to run into the Cornucopia, grab the closest weapon I find, and then kill everyone in sight. I can't say that I'm an experienced killer just yet, but I've prepared my entire life for this. I'm ready."
The buzzer sounded, and she made her way off to the side of the stage. Vladimir Pekelo walked out with his hands in his pockets and an easy smile on his face. He looked completely relaxed as he took his seat.
"It's nice to finally meet you Vladimir," Caesar smiled.
"Call me Vlad," the boy replied.
"Vlad then. I must say, you don't look nervous at all. Are you ready for the Games?"
"What's to be nervous about? We're all friends here." Vlad shrugged. "But yeah, I'm definitely ready. I've been ready for years."
"So you've been planning on volunteering for a while then," Caesar inquired. Minerva rolled her eyes. Caesar was required to play ignorant to the career issue. All of them were. It was part of the mind game that Snow liked to play with the outer District. They were all told that they had an equal chance at victory, even though they knew that the odds were not in their favor. Fluffy questions such as this one were just for show. Even the common Capitolite knew that.
"Yup. I've got a pretty competitive nature, and I know I was born to be a champion. What can I say? I'll stop at nothing for the victory," Vlad nodded.
"Sounds like you're pretty determined," Caesar said. "Do you get that from your parents or maybe a special mentor?"
"My mom's a peacekeeper, and my older brother is a pretty skilled fighter. They taught me a lot about combat, but I'd like to think that my drive is something that is uniquely mine. Not to toot my own horn or anything," Vlad said.
"Well, sounds like you're going to be someone to beat. Ladies and gentleman, Vlad Pekelo," Caesar called as the buzzer announced the close of his conversation. "Now up next, from District Three, we have Auden Eneis!"
Minerva had to admire Auden's stylist work as the girl walked nervously out onto the stage. She wore a blue dress that went down to the middle of her calf. Her hair was in a side pony tail, and the hair had been curled into ringlets on the end. Thick black eyeliner brought out the blue in her eyes and silver glitter made her sparkle under the lights. Minerva smirked. Clearly her stylist was over-compensating for the disaster that was about to come out of the girl's mouth.
"So Auden, how's life away from District Three?" Caesar asked.
Auden bit her lip, and creased her eyebrows. Such a simple question, yet it required so much thought. "Um, good?" she replied, looking unsure.
Caesar laughed, and invited the audience to chuckle with him. "Is that a question? I think you might be a little nervous. Don't worry, I'm a little nervous too," he smiled.
Auden gave him a strange look. "You are? That's unfortunate. I mean, this is your job right? How can you do your job if you have stage fright?"
Again, Caesar laughed off her odd comment. "They say that you need to retire once you've stopped getting excited about what you do. I'll hand in the towel once my pulse stops thumping when I come out here," he smiled. The crowd mumbled their agreement.
"Oh, yes, I see. I can understand that," Auden nodded thoughtfully.
"So I hear that you're quite the genius," Caesar changed the subject, throwing the spotlight back onto her. He was trying to give her a second shot a winning the crowd. Little did he know that asking about her intellect would lose the audience completely.
"No. No I'm just average," she said with unnatural vigor. "No genius here." She cut off her sudden outburst with a nervous laugh, in an attempt to play the crowd the way Porcelain had earlier. She didn't possess the same finesse though.
"I think someone's trying to play down their strengths," Caesar told the crowd. Winking at Auden, he continued. "It's okay your secret's safe with us."
The buzzer blared as he finished his sentence. Auden took her leave gratefully, as she awkwardly moved to join the four hulking careers on the other side of the stage. Minerva could feel the excitement level spiking suddenly as Avell Watts walked onto the stage, his head held high. An intelligent smirk was eased onto his lips as he lounged on the chair across from Caesar. Everyone wanted to hear a few words from the twelve-year-old boy who walked away with a score of nine.
In the corner of her eye, Minerva noticed Vlad lean forward, suddenly highly engrossed in Caesar's interview.
"It's an honor to meet you Caesar," Avell said, shaking the man's hand.
"The pleasure is all mine," Caesar replied. "I must say, everyone is quite impressed with your score. I think you've set a new record, the highest score ever set by someone so young."
"My score? That was nothing. Anyone could have done it, if they knew what the Gamemakers are looking for," Avell brushed off the compliment.
"And you knew?"
"Yeah. I've always been a big fan of the Games, watching reruns in my house and stuff. The only difference between myself and all the other kids my age who are reaped is that the other kids never paid enough attention when watching the Games. All you have to do is notice the patterns. For instance, for the last couple of years, the gamemakers have been awarding higher scores to tributes who later demonstrated that they had half a brain. Tributes like Totem Earhart, and Till Harold have gotten high scores because not only were they competent with some kind of weapon, but they were clever. So in my private session, I showed them exactly that," Avell explained, gaining confidence with each word. The Capitol was hanging on his every word.
"Sounds like you're quite the strategist," Caesar noted.
"You could say that. I wouldn't call it strategy, I'd just say that I have common sense," Avell smirked. "Because you know, despite the fact that it's called common sense, it's really not that common."
The crowd laughed.
"I wish you good luck in the arena then Avell," Caesar laughed. Avell took his seat beside Auden with extreme confidence. Minerva glanced down at her notepad as Rocio walked out. Seymour Yew had told her that Rocio had more potential than some of District Four's greatest victors. So far, she hadn't been living up to such high praise. Potential stemmed just as much from talent as it did from having the correct mindset. The District Four girl was missing some of the latter.
On the stage, introductions were underway. Rocio was going for the same angle Vlad had successfully pulled off- the calm and collected career. She was failing though. Her posture was tight, and her facial expressions first. Underneath the shabby acting attempt a tired awkward interior was coming out.
"Tell me, what motivated you to volunteer?" Caesar asked.
The girl's posture tightened further at the question. "Uh, well, the usual things. Glory, money, a nice house in victors village," Rocio said, rather unconvincingly.
"Come on," Caesar said, calling her out on her lie. "Was it a social status issue? No, then how about a some curiosity about the Capitol? Your parents?"
"My parents?" Rocio laughed, closing off into herself. Minerva's eyebrows furrowed. Was that guilt she saw? How curious. "No it wasn't them. I told you, glory, money, and fame. Who could want anything else?"
"Well, when you put it that way..." Caesar smiled, holding his hands up in defensive jest. The audience laughed. Rocio's face turned red. Obviously she knew that she wasn't making a good impression. When the crowd had calmed down, Caesar reached out for a less touchy topic. "So then, any predictions for the arena? How do you plan on coping with the unveiling. Those first sixty seconds are crucial to starting the game off on the right foot."
"I'm not usually that dramatic," Rocio answered. "I'm pretty good at rolling with the punches, so to speak. I think I'll cope just fine. As for what the arena is, who knows? Your guess is as good as mine."
"Well said," Caesar agreed. "I think I speak for everyone when I say that we're all excited to see more from you." About half of the crowd nodded in half-hearted agreement. Rocio exited the stage swiftly, trying to hide the embarrassed flush of her cheeks. She wasn't happy with her performance.
The moment Airin walked out, all negativity around Rocio was forgotten. Everyone was curious about the blind boy who volunteered.
"Airin la Aguilla," Caesar said. "I must say, I was quite shocked when I learned about your circumstances. It is one thing being blind, but an entirely separate matter that you volunteered knowing about your ailment. I have to ask, why?"
Airin clicked his tongue. "You know, I get that question a lot," he said. "People seem to assume that just because I'm blind, I can't do anything. I can assure you though, I'm just as good as the next guy when it comes to fighting. I promise, I'm going to impress you all in the arena, and not because I'm blind. I'll impress you because I'm awesome enough on my own."
"You're pretty confident," Caesar laughed. "I like it."
Airin grinned. "What can I say? I'm just a likable guy." The crowd chuckled.
"Now you know I have to bring this up, but when you volunteered, there was another boy who you pushed out of the way. Did you know him?" Caesar asked.
"Yeah, that was Hartley," Airin responded automatically. Nobody could see, but the boy's pulse spiked at the mention of his best friend. He had been prepared for this question though. Thank god he had been ready too. He couldn't let them know the true background between the two of them. If Hartley was going to discover Airin's feelings for him, it wasn't going to be on television. "He's a close friend, or he was a close friend. He was going to volunteer this year, and everyone wanted him to. People didn't exactly support me for tribute, you know, with my situation. I couldn't miss this chance though, so I just kind of took it. Hartley was kind of mad at me." Airin allowed a certain amount of his sorrow show through his defenses. He kept most of it buried though. They had to see just enough of his sadness for it to be believable. If he seemed too depressed about it, he'd lose them.
"I'm sure he will understand with time," Caesar said, patting Airin on the back. "If you win, how can he stay mad at you?"
Airin smiled appreciatively. "I hope your right," he nodded.
With that, the buzzer sounded, and the next tribute, Mae Themis walked on. Her face had a sharp scowl on it, as she looked indignantly up at the gamemakers. Minerva smiled coldly down at the girl. Someone must still be a tad unhappy about their score. Lord, Minerva couldn't wait to see that child die a brutal and horrible death.
"Caesar," she greeted rudely.
He was unfazed, of course, as he smiled back at her. "Nice to meet you too," he grinned. "How have you liked your stay at the Capitol so far Ms. Themis?"
"Oh it has been sub par," the girl scoffed. "I must say, it's been painful how flawed a system you guys are running here."
Suddenly, Caesar's smile didn't seem so genuine and Minerva glanced back at one of her fellow Gamemakers. "Get the early buzzer ready," she said under her breath.
"How so?" Caesar asked, raising his eyebrow.
"The whole Avox thing," Mae said, picking the first issue that came to her mind. "It's rather stupid to have your entire lifestyle resting on the shoulders of traitors. I heard that you have an entire network of Avox's here in the Capitol. Sooner or later, they're going to become a problem don't you think? I realize that it doesn't have a direct correlation with my stay here, but really, it makes me uncomfortable thinking about how stupid people can be."
"I suppose so," Caesar mumbled.
"And if you want to look at the bigger picture. There's the whole issue with how Panem is run..."
Minerva signalled for the buzzer to ring, and for Mae's microphone to be shut off. From her balcony, she could see Mae's lips protesting hotly as she was escorted to her seat. Minerva shook her head.
It was a relief to everyone when Petro Joule came walking out onto the stage with an amiable smile on his face. He shook Caesar's hand like a civil person, and waved to the crowd. "Sorry about Mae. She means well," he said with a shy glance towards his District partner.
Caesar laughed, but didn't pursue the topic further. He didn't want to talk district partners with Petro. "So, I haven't gotten any gossip on alliances yet. Might I ask you for some insight?" Caesar asked. "Have you made any friends since you've come here, other than with your District partner of course." Even Minerva snorted at that one.
"I didn't come here looking for friends," Petro said, his tone honest yet guarded. "But I guess I've sort of stumbled into an alliance."
"Well now you've got to spill the secret, who persuaded you?" Caesar asked, leaning forwards.
"Auden did, and Cutter from Twelve. It's going to be the three of us in there. And there are some other alliances too, but I don't think that's my business to tell," Petro said as he nervously played with the sleeve of his dress shirt.
"Oh you're killing us here," Caesar cried out. "Not even a hint at what the others are up to?"
"No, sorry, don't want to make anyone mad," Petro smiled timidly. The audience ate their conversation up, calling out to Petro to tell them more.
Soon enough, Petro's turn on stage came to a close. He had done a good enough job. Sponsors would appreciate the insight into who he was aligned with; although, it wasn't necessarily going to help him that his two allies weren't yet seen as potential victors. Things could still change though. Cutter hadn't screwed up her interview just yet, unlike Auden.
Minerva chewed on her pencil as Crescent Lolium's name was announced. Now here was someone she was actually interested in seeing. She had given the girl a low score after the private sessions. It wasn't because Crescent had performed poorly though. She simply didn't do anything at all. The girl was an enigma, and probably deserved a score of one for her showing. Minerva couldn't shake the feeling though that there had to be something more to her.
The girl took a moment to appear from behind the black curtains, and when she did, she promptly shielded her eyes from the blaring lights. She looked uncomfortable and panicky in the spotlight. But she wasn't brooding for the moment, which was something new.
"Well hello Crescent," Caesar greeted.
The girl paused as her eyes adjusted. Her fingers were clamped around the arms of her chair. "Hi," she responded, sounding slightly hostile.
"How's your day been?"
"Mine has been rather long, in case you were wondering," Caesar joked. "So, are you nervous about tomorrow?"
Crescent paused, taking a deep breath. "No, not really," she said.
"That's interesting, what makes you so confident?" Caesar asked kindly.
Again the girl paused, as if debating on what she was going to say. Then with another deep breath, she looked out to the audience. "I'm... clever. I am going to play the game smart," she said. It looked like every word that left her tongue was painful. She almost resembled a cornered animal that was teetering between fear and aggression. After a moment she added, "Sorry, I don't like the lights."
"Yes, they are kind of bright aren't they," Caesar commented. "That's show business for you. I'm sure they'll grow on you though. If you are crowned our victor, you'll have to get used to being under the spotlight. You're a celebrity now."
Crescent almost hissed in disgust. She looked relieved when she was dismissed from the hot seat, and allowed to move over to the tribute section off to the side. When she reached her seat over there though, she retained much of her tense posture. She wouldn't relax again until she was allowed to fade back into the shadows.
Dust came onto the stage booming with energy. He was wearing the fanciest of clothing- a tailored black suit, matching pants, silver cuff links, a hand-woven belt, the works- yet somehow he still managed to look looked in control though. The reckless boy who fired a paint ball gun in the training room was nowhere to be found.
"What's up Caesar?" Dust said.
"Oh, the usual. How about with you," Caesar replied casually, brushing off his purple suit as if to make himself look cooler.
"Just taking everything in," Dust replied. "Everything here is so big, I'm not used to it just yet."
"Bigger than District Six? I don't believe that for a second," Caesar shook his head.
"Okay not bigger, but maybe grander? That's a better word," Dust conceded.
"Now that I'll believe," Caesar smiled. "I'll have you know we're a very grand people."
Dust laughed. "I can tell. It's not just anywhere you can find people with gold-plated eyelashes."
"Really? I thought that was quite common," Caesar said. The audience laughed.
"Sorry to burst your bubble," Dust laughed along with them.
"So I know of course you're going to try your best to win in the arena," Caesar said, moving to a more serious topic. "But might I ask who you're looking to win for. Do you have a big family back at home?"
"I wouldn't say it's too big. I've got two sisters, May and Silvina, and a brother Gibbs. My parents own the local general store in the town. I help out with the work in the back sometimes. I know they were kind of crushed when I got picked, but I plan on coming home to them really soon. They'll get over it after I've won, I'm sure," Dust said. He picked his words carefully, knowing fully well the consequences of saying the wrong thing. He'd lose a lot more than sponsors if he screwed up. Luckily he was rather experienced at lying at this point. Nobody suspected a thing.
When the buzzer rang this time, the room filled with Caesar's intro music again. "Oh, well look at that, looks like it's time for our short intermission" Caesar said. "Stay tuned while we bring you the following messages."
The lights in the theatre flickered on as Capitolites began to chatter excitedly. Each one waiting with baited breath for the remaining six districts.
A/N Geez I hate interviews. Have I mentioned that? But I guess they're kind of necessary, and I know they aren't nearly as boring for you as they are for me. So I hope you liked the first six districts. I'll be coming to you shortly with the next six. Only two more chapters until the bloodbath! Get excited! I'm excited! Whew!
Okay okay, I'll stop.
Until next time,